Moltz, D. (2011) Is completion the right goal? Inside Higher Education, February 16

This article discusses a paper by Arthur M. Hauptman, who challenges the notion that a key goal for US higher education should be improving university student completion rates (e.g. 100 students start a four year degree, 56 complete within six years). Hauptman argues that what matters is the attainment rate, e.g. 150 start and 50% complete = 75 graduates). He is in fact arguing for higher participation rates (as part of the argument he says US post-secondary data should include vocational as well as academic attainment.) He also criticzes the use of international comparative data because different countries use different indicators of participation, completion and attainment.

Although somewhat specific to the Obama agenda in the United States, the issue is an important one for online learning. One performance indicator is increasing access to post-secondary education, so I am sympathetic to Hauptman’s argument that what matters is the proportion of an age cohort that eventually qualifies (whatever that might mean). However, I still believe completion rates are important, because if many students, fail to complete, there are high costs, especially to students.

Lastly, at the same conference someone challenged the idea that US states were opting out of post-secondary education: “The state is in the higher education business for the foreseeable future, and we need to act like it.” Please note, David Cameron and the UK government.


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