Written by David Blumenthal, CROSO Board Member and Education Researcher
(Photos above are of CROSO graduates- Amos, Norah, Solomon, Titus and Lydia)
Let’s begin this blog with a sobering look at the rarity of success in higher education. It may be a shock to learn just how often students fail to earn their college degree here in the United States. The U.S. Department of Education reported last year that only 6 in 10 students beginning a 4-year college program in fall 2008 were able to earn their degree within 6 years. The dropout rates at 2-year programs was even higher and some have estimated that 2 in every 3 students at community colleges were required to take a remedial course in English or mathematics before they could begin their chosen program.
We know from research in the United States that dropping out comes with a big cost. American high school dropouts have problems getting a job, keeping a job, remaining in good health, staying out of jail, and even just staying alive.* For college students, dropping out has other negative consequences. Students that leave college without a degree fare worse than their graduate peers in the job market, but they often also face a double-whammy of carrying student loans without the economic advantage of a degree or certificate. In short, they get all the worst parts of college without the payoff at the end.
In Uganda, participation in secondary education, what we Americans call high school, is the exception, not the standard. The Education Policy Data Center reported that fewer than 20 percent of all youth ages 13 to 18 attended school in 2006.** While that number has been improving over time, only a small subset of youth go to secondary school and fewer still attend post-secondary education.
I think this helps to put the work of CROSO into perspective. Since CROSO began about 10 years ago, only a single scholar has ever dropped out of a post-secondary program. It would be understandable to expect the dropout rate for CROSO scholars, all of whom were former street children, to be much higher. These scholars did not enjoy the advantages of stable families and robust institutions that many in the United States enjoy. And yet, the scholars have far exceeded expectations of their peers in Uganda and even here in the United States.
CROSO is doing extraordinary work against the odds and is making a great difference. In coming years, the Board of Directors and Executive Director Molly MacCready will delve deeper into this success to understand its sources. We look forward to working with you, CROSO’s supporters and sponsors to share our results.