UMass, Community College Enrollments High: So Are Dropout Rates

A new report finds that while enrollment rates in Massachusetts’ public universities and community colleges are high, many high school students are under-prepared for college and ultimately drop out.

The 82-page report “Time to Lead: The Need for Excellence in Higher Public Education,” places the state’s higher education achievements and challenges in the context of public education in other states.

The report finds Massachusetts among the nation’s leaders in college enrollment, with 77 percent of high school graduates pursuing post-secondary degrees, compared to a national average of 65 percent.  Yet some 65 percent of Massachusetts community college students need at least one remedial class before they can take on college-level work, as do 22 percent of students at state universities and 7 percent at UMass institutions.

Commissioner of Higher Education Richard Freeland says the state’s high schools and higher education institutions must work together better to prepare students for the rigors of post-secondary education — and that the statewide tests known as MCAS may give them a false sense of security.

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“They show up in one of our public colleges, we give them an entirely different test called “Accu-Placer.” They don’t do well on that test and they places into remediation and they are surprised, because they did well on MCAS they though that’s what they were supposed to do. That’s all about a lack of alignment between high school and college. So we are very focused on this question of getting a common metric, a common standard, a common understanding of what college readiness means.”

And while enrollments at public higher ed institutions are steadily increasing, the report estimates that, at current rates, the number of degree-holding graduates the state needs to fill its workforce by 2020 will fall short by 50,000.