March 1st, 2015
About 12,000 students attend Lane Community College, and they have nearly that many different reasons for enrolling. The state of Oregon should not assume that either the college or its students are failing if a large number of students attend LCC without ever graduating. Yet that is the direction Oregon is headed with a funding formula that rewards community colleges for raising their graduation rates, and penalizes them when students leave without obtaining a certificate or degree.
Last month, LCC President Mary Spilde quit the Oregon Education Investment Board partly because of that issue. The investment board is a new body with authority over education at all levels, and its fundamental task is to move the state toward its 40-40-20 goal: The state aims to have 40 percent of Oregonians obtain four-year university degrees by 2025 and an additional 40 percent obtain two-year college credentials, with the remaining 20 percent graduating from high school.
The goal is ambitious, but the principle is sound — the best jobs in the decades to come will require some sort of education or training beyond high school, so the doors of universities and community colleges should be opened to greater numbers of young people. It’s natural that in pursuit of its goal, the state would turn its attention to the issue of student retention. If more students who enter universities and community colleges complete their degrees, the chances of achieving the 40-40-20 target will improve.