“The best thing about freshmen is that they become sophomores.”– Legendary Marquette Basketball Coach Al McGuire

What strategies can American colleges and universities employ to ensure that more freshmen do indeed become sophomores?

Consider the question this way: The late Intel President and CEO Andy Grove wrote about strategic inflection points in his 1996 best seller, “Only The Paranoid Survive.”

There are a few strategic inflection points in everyone’s life.

Get them right, and life may be a good thing as Martha would say.

Get them wrong, and life may end up simply running out the clock of life drinking PBRs in a dive bar.

What Almost DailyBrett is talking about are those poor souls who fall by the wayside may be directly attributable to the failure to make the transition from the freshman to sophomore year in college.

Based upon the experience of your professor author — more times than naught — is once a student takes time off after the frosh year to take a job, the overwhelming chances are the student never comes back to college.

Worse yet the student may have already incurred an educational loan, ending up with the double whammy of zero degree and crushing debt on the books.

Life is off to a miserable start, and it may only get worse.

Are these former students prepared for the demands of our service-oriented, digital, coding-dominated workforce? You know the answer.

Are they one “bad day” from being unemployed … yet again?

Forget about discretionary income to invest in stocks, bonds and mutual funds, these lowly sods are living pay check-to-pay check.

Sure there are examples of early college drop-outs – Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Mark Zuckerberg – who become billionaires, but how many reach the Three-Comma-Club anyway?

Grooving With A High School Diploma

“If you think education is expensive; try the cost of ignorance.” – Former Harvard President Derek Bok

The numbers may be a tad outdated, but the story is still the same.

Pew Research reported in 2014 a startling gap between those who attain a BA/BS degree (let alone a master’s or Ph.D), and those with only a high school diploma.

The percentage of those with a bachelor’s degree in poverty three years ago was 5.8 percent; the percentage of those with a lowly high school diploma in poverty was 21.8 percent or more than one-in-five.

The college grad made on the average $45,500 per year; the high school diploma holder, $28,000 … a $17,500 per year delta. Multiply a $17,500 gap (which most likely will grow exponentially) by a 40-year career and the gulf reaches $700,000.

What does the $700,000 (at least) gulf mean?

This staggering number translates into the college graduate having discretionary income to invest in markets. Since the depth of the 2009 recession, the S&P 500 is up 270 percent. For 2017, the Dow Jones has increased 22.2 percent, the benchmark S&P has climbed 17.4 percent.

Many ponder, pontificate and bloviate about the growing economic separation between those who succeed in our interconnected, digital, service-oriented economy. Pew provides insights into the gap between those who graduate with a bachelor’s degree (about 29 percent of Americans) and those who don’t.

Colleges and universities are rightfully attuned to the percentage of entering freshmen, who graduate within the next five years.

Almost DailyBrett is asking a different question:

If many would-be sophomores are dropping out and co-signing themselves to a meager life (maybe even poverty), including one-bad-day-away from being unemployed, shouldn’t we be more concerned about freshmen retention?

Let’s review the U.S. News & World Report records for freshmen retention of four universities of particular interest to Almost DailyBrett:

  • University of Southern California, 96 percent freshman retention to sophomore year (BA degree in Broadcasting Journalism, 1978).
  • University of Oregon, 87 percent freshman retention rate (MA in Communications and Society, 2012).
  • Arizona State University, 86 percent freshman retention rate (Offered Ph.D Fellowship).
  • Central Washington University, 77 percent freshman retention rate (Presently employed as an Assistant Professor).

Some loss of frosh students because of plain, old life, and that is to be expected.

Losing 10 percent-to-20 percent or more of a freshman class should set off alarm bells.

Will these lost students be tomorrow’s poverty dwellers?

That may sound extreme, but then again it may not.

https://www.usnews.com/best-colleges/rankings/national-universities/freshmen-least-most-likely-return

https://www.payscale.com/career-news/2014/07/fewer-freshman-college-students-returning-for-sophomore-year

http://www.slate.com/blogs/moneybox/2014/11/19/u_s_college_dropouts_rates_explained_in_4_charts.html

http://www.azquotes.com/quote/562419

https://almostdailybrett.wordpress.com/2013/02/17/running-out-the-clock/

https://almostdailybrett.wordpress.com/2014/11/26/the-role-of-college-in-exacerbating-economic-inequality/

http://www.pewsocialtrends.org/2014/02/11/the-rising-cost-of-not-going-to-college/

https://www.cnbc.com/2017/11/02/stocks-are-high-but-investor-numbers-are-low.html

https://www.usnews.com/best-colleges/central-washington-university-3771

https://www.usnews.com/best-colleges/asu-1081