Spokesmen for community colleges were distressed by the findings. "Community college officials are acutely aware that they must do more to maximize the number of students who graduate; it's a huge and growing concern," says David Baime, the American Association of Community Colleges' vice president for government relations. But Baime says much of the problem is caused by "the utterly unjustifiable practices of many four-year institutions that prevent would-be community college transfers from enrolling with appropriate credit."
Cash helps but is not a cure-all: More generous scholarships, or lower net tuition prices, can boost graduation rates by 5 to 10 percent. But scholarships and true costs need to be communicated to parents far earlier than the current system's six-month lead, and much more clearly, the authors say. In addition, combining sufficient aid with extra support services for students and parents does even more to shepherd students through to graduation.
Some colleges are doing a much better job than others: Colleges where most students live on campus and schools that create "honors" groups and "learning communities" are far more successful at graduating students than other universities.
There is some hope: The graduation rate success of experiments such as the Posse program, which provides teams of 10 low-income and minority students at elite schools lots of scholarships, mentoring, counseling, and peer support, shows that "graduation rates can be increased substantially if enough resources—and creativity—are put to work," the authors say.
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