America Has Always Had a Rather High College Dropout Rate

George Leef

In this week's Pope Center Clarion Call, I comment on the recent AEI paper by Professor John Thelin, in which he shows that there was no "golden age" of higher ed in America when most students who enrolled completed their studies and received their degrees. Even elite schools had fairly high dropout rates a century ago and hardly anyone thought that college dropout rates mattered -- except insofar as they hurt school finances. Thelin accepts the standard view that today's high dropout rate is "troubling" but doesn't make a case. Many of those who drop out are students who won't benefit much from college coursework. They're cutting short their losses on an "investment" that probably won't pay off.

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