Study finds low grad rates for Brooklyn public college students

December 6, 2017 By Paula Katinas Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Brooklyn College is one of the seven schools in the CUNY system. Eagle file photo by Paula Katinas
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Brooklyn residents who enroll in public colleges in the borough have low graduation rates, according to an alarming new report from the Center for an Urban Future, a think tank based in Manhattan that studies ways to reduce economic inequality through changes in public policy.

The study, which was released on Dec. 5 and is titled “Degrees of Difficulty: Boosting College Success in New York City,” was funded by The Clark Foundation.

The study found that Medgar Evers College had the lowest graduation rate out of all of the City University of New York (CUNY) four-year colleges. Only 27 percent of its students earn a bachelor’s degree within six years. At Brooklyn College, the six-year graduation rate is 56 percent.

Just 28 percent of students earn an associate’s degree within three years of enrolling Kingsborough Community College.

News for those who live, work and play in Brooklyn and beyond

What’s puzzling about all this is that while college graduation rates are low, New York has made great strides in increasing its high school graduation rates, the study found. “In fact, New York City provides college access to more high school graduates than most other major cities. In 2014, 77 percent of the city’s on-time high school graduates enrolled in college the following September, compared to 62 percent in Chicago,” the study reads.

But those promising high school graduates aren’t going on to earn college degrees in large numbers.

“If New York is serious about reducing inequality and helping more residents get on the path to the middle class, we absolutely need to address the city’s college success problems,” stated Tom Hilliard, senior fellow for economic opportunity at Center for an Urban Future.

Hilliard, who authored the study, drew upon information from CUNY and the New York City Department of Education (DOE), as well as data prepared by the New York State Education Department, the Higher Education Services Corporation, Graduate NYC and the Research Alliance for New York City Schools.

Researchers also gathered information by conducting interviews with officials at DOE, CUNY, high schools and colleges, community-based organizations and high school and college students.

“CUNY has made some important progress in improving graduation rates in recent years, but there’s still an enormous problem when nearly 8 in 10 students at the city’s community colleges fail to earn an on-time credential,” Hilliard said in a statement.

The lack of college degrees is a problem in a fast-moving economy where many of the good-paying jobs require at least an associate’s degree, the researchers concluded.

Less than 33 percent of Brooklyn residents have bachelor’s degrees, the study found.

The combination of the necessity of a college degree and the low college graduation rate is not a good mix, according to the researchers, who noted the following factors:

  • Of the 25 occupations expected to grow the fastest over the next decade and pay more than $50,000 a year, 20 will require a college degree.

  • The average working adult in New York City who has only a high school diploma can expect to earn 32 percent less than a worker with an associate’s degree and less than half than someone with a bachelor’s degree.

  • The college graduation rate is particularly low in the city’s lowest-income neighborhoods, including Brownsville, where only 11 percent of residents have college degrees.

The study, which looked at several factors that account for why students who graduate from high school wind up dropping out of college, includes nearly two dozen policy recommendations.

“We suggest creating a Student Success Fund, a new pool of money that would empower CUNY to take on a host of student success initiatives,” the report reads. The proposed initiatives would include increasing the number of college advisers, creating mentoring programs for faculty members and developing a microgrants program aimed at preventing students who are experiencing a crisis from dropping out of college.

At the city level, the report recommends that Mayor Bill de Blasio support giving free MetroCards to all community college students to help bring down the non-academic costs students face.

There is much that CUNY can do to reverse the trend of low graduation rates, according to the study. “CUNY should follow through on its promising initiative to expand the use of alternatives to remediation, which could help scores of CUNY students avoid the trap of taking courses without earning credits,” the report reads.

The study recommended that DOE take additional steps to better prepare high school students for the rigors of college. One of the steps would be to have a full-time college counselor in every high school. The report also calls on DOE to overhaul math instruction in the city’s high schools.


To read the full report, visit https://nycfuture.org/pdf/CUF-DegreesofDifficulty_Dec.pdf.


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