The failure of America's colleges to turn more freshmen into graduates is doing huge amounts of damage to the economy, David Leonhardt writes in the New York Times. Only half of those enrolled in college emerge with a degree, the worst rate of any developed country except Italy. This dismal performance of public universities—dubbed "failure factories" by one economist—is largely responsible for rising inequality and falling productivity, Leonhardt writes.
"Under-matching"—when lower-income students don't choose to attend the best college they can get into—is a major cause of high dropout rates, say the authors of Crossing the Finish Line, a new book looking at the trend. Almost as big a problem, they say, is that a culture of failure that has become acceptable, and many students just don't see the need to graduate within four years. Doing so is "like leaving the party at 10:30 pm," one student told them.