- By Geoffrey H. Fletcher
Technology has a vital role to play in helping college
students-- and our country-- succeed.
President Obama set a goal at the
beginning of his administration:
"By 2020, this nation will once
again have the highest proportion of college
graduates in the world.”
Well, judging by the results of the latest
ACT exams, we have a long way to
go: Only 23 percent of all students taking
the test are ready for college-level
coursework in all four major subjects.
Not surprisingly, this academic
unreadiness shows up in college graduation
statistics. According to the
White House, "Nearly half of students
who enter community college intending
to earn a degree or transfer to a four-year
college fail to reach their goal within
six years.” The completion rate for
four-year institutions is equally abysmal:
only 36.4 percent within four years and
58.8 percent within six years.
And though a higher percentage of
the population has a college degree than
ever before (in 1970 it was just 11 percent;
in 2005 it was 28 percent, according
to the National Center for Education
Statistics), all we have to do is look at
the most recent unemployment numbers
to understand the impact of a college
degree on one's economic well-being. In
August 2009, the national unemployment
rate was 9.7 percent for high
school graduates, 8.2 percent for people
with some college credit or an associate's
degree, and 4.7 percent for people
with a bachelor's degree or higher. Bad
news for high school dropouts: That
unemployment rate was 15.6 percent.
(Source: US Bureau of Labor Statistics.)
In response to this crisis, Obama has
launched the American Graduation Initiative,
a 10-year, $12 billion investment
to help reclaim our country's leadership
position in college graduation rates.
Technology can and will play a major
role in this effort. Preliminary information
indicates that the focus of Obama's initiative
will be on community colleges--
but the approaches can benefit four-year
institutions also. For example, the administration
wants to set up data systems
to track students' education progress,
completion, and then career success.
Statewide data systems are being created
to track students through K-12, and
continuing that effort into higher ed and
the workplace could prove invaluable.
Modernizing facilities so that students
and faculty have access to each other as
well as information any time anywhere
also makes great sense. Investing in
more and better online content, courses,
and programs can help meet the various
learning needs of a growing diverse
population. All these efforts need technology;
trained faculty to use it well; and
a solid, supported IT infrastructure.
To shine more light on technology's
role in college completion, CT is offering
The College Graduation Summit: Innovative
Technologies and Strategies, a virtual
event on Oct. 29, presented with
support from CDW-G and its partners.
(Register here.) And don't miss our
December issue, which will focus on
community colleges and key topics from
the American Graduation Initiative.
Keeping students engaged, enrolled,
and prepared for their futures makes
fiscal sense not only for every student
and every higher education institution,
but also for the success of our nation
as it redefines itself in the global 21st
-- Geoff Fletcher, Editorial Director
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Geoffrey H. Fletcher is the deputy executive director of the State Educational Technology Directors Association (SETDA).