Business must step up and help fix American education

Rana Foroohar:

State funding for education hit a peak in the 1980s, and has been falling ever since, a decline that has of course created a huge class and skills gap. While the cost of a degree has risen for everyone, it has hit families in the lower quartile of the socio-economic spectrum the hardest. They paid 44.6 per cent of their income for a degree in 1990, compared with 84 per cent today. No wonder so many drop out with no diploma but huge amounts of debt — a situation that has become a “headwind” to economic growth, according to the US Federal Reserve.

This, combined with the fact that US education has not been retooled in decades and does not churn out graduates equipped to compete in the digital economy, means that there is a large class of under-employed and under-skilled American workers. According to many chief executives, economists and civil society leaders, this has become the most pressing single problem for business — bigger than China, the North American Free Trade Association or the erratic behaviour of President Donald Trump.


What are the graduation rates for students obtaining a bachelor’s degree?


The 6-year graduation rate for first-time, full-time undergraduate students who began seeking a bachelor’s degree at a 4-year degree-granting institution in fall 2009 was 59 percent. That is, 59 percent had completed a bachelor’s degree by 2015 at the same institution where they started in 2009. The 6-year graduation rate was 59 percent at public institutions, 66 percent at private nonprofit institutions, and 23 percent at private for-profit institutions. The 6-year graduation rate was 62 percent for females and 56 percent for males; it was higher for females than for males at both public (61 vs. 55 percent) and private nonprofit institutions (68 vs. 62 percent). However, at private for-profit institutions, males had a higher 6-year graduation rate than females (24 vs. 22 percent).