International Comparisons Of College Completion Have Major Validity Problems

August 22nd, 2010

  I attended the ECS meeting and heard Cliff Adelman speak and  am convinced that he has uncovered real problems  concerning the  OECD claim that the USA has declined from first to 11th in the rate of international completion of college. See his publication, The Spaces Between Numbers  published by IHEP at www. ihep.orgWEB. Adelman stresses the US is still first or second  in the completion of bachelors degrees. But OECD does not count transfers in USA 4 year  completion rate  One out of 5 USA bachelors degree holders  transfred between one or more colleges.Here are some brief quotes from his publication on this and other issues..

“Before OECD put up, online, another version of this table, those who bemoan our position in the higher education world chose a different column, on which to focus: one that includes associate’s degrees, where, indeed, we do not perform well.  The reason is simple:  other OECD countries that award what are called ‘short-cycle’ degrees (Belgium, Canada, Denmark, France, Ireland, Japan, Korea, the Netherlands, and United Kingdom) have institutions and programs devoted solely to producing degrees and no other, whereas our community colleges have taken on a plethora of missions and student populations who are not degree candidates, and are under greater pressure to transfer students to four-year sector with or without associate’s degrees.  And when you mix bad performance for associate’s degrees with top-of-the-line performance for bachelor’s degrees, you purposefully distort what happens in U.S. higher education and why.

“The second piece of negative propaganda used by critics of our higher education system is based on another table in Education at a Glance 2008 that purports to display graduation rates (technically, “cohort survival” rates) for those seeking a bachelor’s (or equivalent) degree.  There are 24 OECD countries compared in this table, where the U.S. graduation rate is indicated at 56 percent within six years of entry to higher education, the second lowest among the 24 countries.  What OECD does not tell the reader is that the U.S. graduation rate in the only rate among the 24 to be calculated only if students graduated at the same institution in which they began.  All the other countries present system graduation rates.”