I recently attended a conference hosted by the #EAB, an impressive firm dedicated to addressing higher education's biggest challenges.
You know how these industry gatherings are – you never know if they are going to be worth your time and energy or not. There’s a ton of work piling up back at the office, so your evening–after the de rigueur cocktail party and perhaps even a dinner out when you would rather get room service – will be overstuffed with e- and v-mails and a few phone calls before you can touch base with your family.
You set your alarm clock for 6 a.m. in hopes of getting in a jog before it starts all over again, but then you hit the snooze button one too many times and realize you need to pack your bag, check out, and return to the over-air-conditioned hotel facility to smile, shake hands, say a few witty and compelling things, exchange business cards, argue with yourself over whether you should eat that croissant or save your carbs for something else, absorb countless new ideas, imagine how to implement them in the coming year given your resources, and rush to the airport or train station to reach home at a decent hour so that you can say hello to your loved ones and pet the dog for a minute before collapsing.
It’s often not worth it, in my experience. But when it is, it is SO worth it! This was one of those times. This 1.5-day experience not only brought home why I work in higher education, but also thrust into stark relief the enormous challenges facing us at this moment in our nation’s history. No, I’m not talking about our current administration (though I was in D.C. where you can’t forget for one nano-second who the president is). I’m talking about the failure of colleges and universities to graduate our students and ensure they land up engaged where their degrees was worth all they had to do to get it.
Here are some #EAB statistics, which I have been sharing at every opportunity in the past week.
“For every 100 students who start a bachelor’s degree…
22 drop out of college
12 are still enrolled after six years
3 earn an associate’s degree
28 graduate but are underemployed
35 graduate and are working in a job requiring a BA by the age of 27.”
Combine those numbers with the average debt carried by students who leave college, whether they have a degree or not, which currently stands at an average of $40K, our institutions are truly failing our students.
This is an abomination.
What can we do about it?
For many years, as a dean at three Ivy League colleges and now as an AVP at a university with an extraordinary mission, I have had a front row seat to the obstacles to success that college students and their parents confront every year. Even at so-called elite, highly selective colleges such as Princeton, Harvard, and Columbia, where I spent some of my career, students struggle on a daily basis to remain healthy, happy, grounded, and to stay in school. I am dedicated to helping them.