Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Pie in the Boston Sky / Aiming for Higher College Graduation Rates in Boston

Boston has launched an ambitious new college access and retention campaign called “Getting Ready, Getting In, and Getting Through.” The goal is to double the college graduation rate from 35.5% for students from Boston Public Schools’ Class of 2000 to 71% for students from the BPS Class of 2011.

Too few students complete degrees in a timely way, with major consequences for themselves, their employment prospects, and local economies, so Mayor Menino’s leadership in Boston on the issue is commendable. Rallying around the campaign are heavyweights including the presidents/CEOs of Northeastern, The Boston Foundation, and The Boston Private Industry Council. There’s no mention of how the 71% number was derived, leading me to think that one of the muckety-mucks in the conference room said, “Let’s commit to increasing it 50%,” and another muckety-muck replied, “100% sounds better,” with the mayor confirming, “Okay, 100 percent it is. We’re done. Now who’s pitching for the Sox tonight?”

To give you a sense of how far Boston needs to go in realizing the goal of a 71% college graduation rate, the city is starting out with a meager 12% of community college attendees from the Class of 2000 earning an associate’s degree. In 2006, the overall graduation rates at UMass-Boston, UMass-Dartmouth, and Northeastern were just 36%, 48%, and 65% respectively—and this is for all students and not just BPS graduates, who probably enter less-prepared than the average. To achieve the 71% goal, the city needs to get its college graduation rate to the neighborhood of Emerson College’s current graduation rate of 74%.

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