The REAL Reason Harvard Has Awesome Graduation Rates


In his odd piece claiming that public “failure factory” universities are to blame for the dismal economy, David Leohnhardt touts efforts that universities can take to up their matriculation graduation rates, and better prepare their students for the real world.

But let’s be honest. You know why Harvard has a matriculation graduation rate around 80%, right? It’s not because they have programs to hold their students hands through graduation. The secret: be uber-selective in who you accept, ensuring that everyone who enters is a type-A, overachiever. That’s it.

By self-selecting awesome students, you can assure a great graduation rate. And if you’re stuck with the dregs, well, then, your graduation rate will be lower.

Felix Salmon calls us out for dismissing the idea that we could achieve more by helping highly-talented, but low-income students go to more elite schools. And yes, a smart kid at Harvard might do better than that same kid at Eastern Michigan. And the displaced rich kid forced to go to Eastern Michigan would probably graduate.

So yes, at the margins, getting the best fit for each student would be a fine thing. But this would be a marginal gain, nothing nearly so big that Leonhardt could claim state schools are a major contributor to the bad economy.

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