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the college pipeline is not working for people

September 27th, 2018 | 1 min read

By Matthew Loftus

This post from the Institute of Family Studies hammers home what I think is a really important point about college:

High school graduates enroll in college at higher rates than they used to, but that has not translated to a surge in college graduates. The vast majority of community college enrollees drop out. Four-year schools perform better, but still fewer than 60% of students complete degrees within even six years at the schools where they first enroll. As Harvard University’s David Deming observed in a 2017 report for the Brooking Institution’s Hamilton Project, “Although college attendance rates have risen steadily, bachelor’s degree attainment by age 25 has been relatively flat for the past two decades.”


At some point, we have to stop faulting the system for its failure to produce more graduates, and stop expecting the next policy intervention or funding increase to solve the “problem.” The reality is that most students are not going to complete the college pathway as we have defined it, and the actual problem we need to solve is that the education system provides few attractive pathways for the non-college student to travel.

If a college degree is becoming more expensive (with less clear gains) and increasing enrollment is not producing more college graduates… shouldn’t we de-emphasize the importance of going to college and insteads have a much broader focus in our high schools on learning trades or other skills that will allow people to get a job without a college degree?

Matthew Loftus

Matthew Loftus teaches and practices Family Medicine in Baltimore and East Africa. His work has been featured in Christianity Today, Comment, & First Things and he is a regular contributor for Christ and Pop Culture. You can learn more about his work and writing at