Nevada’s vaunted educational system has aced another major public relations coup for the Silver State.
UNLV just hit the bottom of a survey of U.S. colleges with the worst graduation rates, right down there with a bunch of Dixie and midwestern schools. The Mountain West Conference is further represented by the bellwether of CheneyLand, Wyoming.
Last Sunday, New York Times columnists Stephen Leonhardt and Sahil Chinoy summarized a joint investigation by The Times and the Urban Institute’s Center on Educational Data and Policy.
“About one in three students who enroll in college never earn a degree,” they reported, adding “the problem isn’t the students — it’s the schools.”
The results showed no obvious common denominator predicting which schools perform the best — big or small, famous or obscure, rich or poor. Success garlands those which do the most for their students. Surprise.
“We found that the list of top-performing colleges — those that exceed their expected six-year graduation rate — is diverse in almost every way,” Leonhardt and Chinoy stated.
“It includes private colleges like the University of La Verne in southern California as well as historically black colleges like North Carolina Central and Fayetteville State (NC). It also includes big public schools like Virginia Tech and several branches of the State University of New York. The group of underperforming colleges (e.g., branches of Purdue, Indiana, Auburn and Nebraska) is also diverse although the outliers in our analysis are public,” they noted.
Successful schools provide an educational structure. Fayetteville State no longer allows “undeclared” majors. Instead, “pre-majors” are assigned based on student declarations of interest.
“At colleges where more students live on campus, graduation rates tend to be higher,” the commentators reported. “Colleges that spend more money on students also tend to outperform their expected graduation rates.”
“Unfortunately, most states have reduced per-student funding over the past decade and some have done so sharply. Several states with particularly low average graduation rates like Arkansas, Missouri and Nevada, also spend relatively little on higher education.”
Spending money solves problems. Imagine that!
“Financial aid tends to lift graduation rates said Ben Castleman, an education professor at the University of Virginia. Affordability is ‘probably the biggest factor’ prompting dropouts,” he stated.
Unexpected expenses like car repairs send desperate people to payday loansharks. Smart schools wise up.
“La Verne has set aside $1 million for seniors who encounter a financial hurdle. North Carolina Central has a similar program… but some schools succeed despite modest budgets. Troy (Alabama)…teaches students how to be college students,” that is, how to thrive at a much higher level than high school.
One of the worst performers, the University of Houston, nonetheless increased graduation performance by almost 20 points to almost 65 percent over the last decade, although it still has a long way to go.
Houston shows that schools that want to can reduce glaring dropout rates.
All of this comes as the Nevada Legislature desperately tries to fund the state educational system with a paucity of revenue to cover the costs. The problems are well-documented: A regressive property and sales tax system, low taxes on the mining and gambling industries coupled with copulative corporate welfare for billionaires and corporations that don’t need it.
Even the Millennium Scholarship Program is at risk. New governor Kenny Guinn wanted something substantial to propose in his first State of the State Address in 1999. (I was there.) Like his successor Brian Sandoval, he dared not support a tax increase until after winning a second term. So he proposed shunting money from the national tobacco settlement to fund tuition for state residents at state colleges.
I was critical because the money was supposed to go toward reimbursing taxpayers for health care costs imposed by the purveyors of tobacco-born disease.
I modified my position after being told by UNR professors that the Millennium program made a visible change in student performance.
So it may be eliminated as you read this.
RIGHT AND WRONG. Nevada statutes are arguably a symphony of right results for wrong reasons. Like Guinn’s scholarship program, our passage of the toughest open meeting law in the country back in the 1970s was due to a clerical error by legislative staff.
STAR ALUMNA. Sparks can brag of a distinguished alumna from La Verne, former Washoe School District Trustee Debra Feemster who earned her doctorate there after a distinguished career as Traner Middle School and Hugh High principal and WCSD administrator.
EXTRA! EXTRA! READ ALL ABOUT IT! Washington, DC (5-22-2019) – Tsar Donaldov nukes bi-partisan infrastructure bill until Democrats stop “witch hunt” investigations.
To Trump, that’s negotiation. To criminal lawyers, that’s called a PLEA BARGAIN.
Be well. Raise hell. Esté bien. Haga infierno.
Andrew Barbano is a 50-year Nevadan and editor of NevadaLabor.com. E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org Barbwire by Barbano has originated in the Tribune since 1988.