Home > Uncategorized > NYT’s David Leonardt Continues to Promote “Failing Public Schools” Meme, Misses Opportunity to Support Free College for All

NYT’s David Leonardt Continues to Promote “Failing Public Schools” Meme, Misses Opportunity to Support Free College for All

May 26, 2018

Yesterday’s NYTimes David Leonardt’s column described “A New Dropout Crisis“: the accelerating rate of dropouts in college. How bad is the problem?

About a decade ago, the number of college dropouts exceeded the number of K-12 dropouts, and the two have continued to move in opposite directions since then. And if you focus only on high-school dropouts — excluding people, many of whom are immigrants, who dropped out earlier and never reached high school — there are now about twice as many college dropouts as high-school dropouts.

And why is this happening? Here’s Leonardt’s synopsis:

There are multiple causes of the college-dropout boom. K-12 schools certainly deserve a substantial amount of blame, because they produce too many ill-prepared students. But colleges — and policymakers — deserve a lot of blame, as well. For years, higher education paid far too little attention to results. That’s starting to change, as Tina Rosenberg has described in several Times Op-Eds, but there is still an enormous amount of work to do.

Alas, Mr. Leonardt overlooks the source of the highest dropout rates: for profit colleges! As Christina Cauterucci wrote in Slate in September 2017, these colleges prey on the most vulnerable population– single moms and first generation students who struggled in high school– promising them high paying jobs if they take out student loans and attend their school. The promise is far too often hollow and baseless. Ms. Cauterucci offers these sad results:

The average six-year graduation rate among for-profit colleges is 23 percent, compared to 59 percent at public institutions and 66 percent at private nonprofit schools. And because for-profit degrees usually cost far more than comparable degrees from community colleges and public universities, students who attend for-profit schools are more likely to have to take out loans to afford their education. They are also far more likely to default on those loans than those who attended nonprofit or public institutions, in part because the economic benefits conferred upon those with other college degrees don’t transfer to graduates from for-profit schools.

59% and 66% rates are problematic to be sure, but 23% is scandalous… but unsurprising given that for-profit colleges are not competitive in who they accept which means that students with weak academic backgrounds can enroll with impunity.

If post-secondary schooling was free to all, it would greatly benefit PK-16 systems because publicly funded institutions could create seamless mechanisms that would allow students to proceed at a rate of speed that matches the mastery of the content. Instead of setting an arbitrary benchmark of 12 years to master the material needed to enter post-secondary schools they could provide course offerings that would prepare students for the rigors of college and thus lower the drop out rate.

But… if post-secondary schooling was free to all it would require higher taxes, eliminate the “opportunity” for profiteers to capitalize on the neediest students, and “expand the government”… all of which are deemed to be bad from the perspective of too many of our political leaders… and, sadly, our voters….


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