Center for American Progress

STATEMENT: There’s More to College than Just Getting In
Press Release

STATEMENT: There’s More to College than Just Getting In

By Robin Chait, Louis Soares

Washington, D.C. – April is a tense month for high school seniors and their parents. Hopes and dreams for a successful future lie in the college admissions (or rejection) letters that millions will receive this month, after which students and parents gather together to decide on their final choice.

But for most students, getting into school is the easy part. Successfully completing college is the hard part, especially for young people from low-income and minority communities. For millions, successful careers, good jobs, and salaries are connected with finishing college, not starting it.

The benefits of having a bachelor’s degree versus having just some college in 2005, for example, amounted to more than a $10,000 wage premium. Estimates of the differential over a lifetime can amount to over $400,000. Yet within three years of entering college, more than one-third of students leave higher education without any credentials.

Over the last 50 years, the proportion of individuals receiving college diplomas has decreased as the number of students enrolling in college has increased. Among students starting at four-year institutions, only 34 percent finish a bachelor’s degree in four years. Sixty-four percent finish within six years, and 69 percent finish within 8.5 years. Furthermore, despite the expansion of opportunities for education, family background and race and ethnicity continue to influence chances for degree completion.