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Report: Over Half of Connecticut's Private Colleges Are "Dropout Factories"


Seven of Connecticut's 13 private, non-profit colleges are graduating fewer than two-thirds of the student body. That's according to an analysis of federal data by Third Way, a Washington D.C.-based think tank.

But some private colleges are doing much better than others. At Trinity College, for example, nearly 85 percent of students end up graduating. But at the University of Bridgeport, seven out of ten students don't graduate.

"I'm not exactly sure exactly what's going on at all of these institutions, but some of them are just getting abysmal outcomes," said Tamra Hiler, a policy advisor at Third Way. "But some of them are actually doing a very good job at supporting low and moderate income students and helping them get to the finish line."

A big difference between schools like Trinity and ones like Bridgeport is the students they enroll. Nearly half of students who go to Bridgeport are low income and are getting federal Pell grant money. But at Trinity, barely one in 10 students fit that category.

This is the case among many of Connecticut's private colleges -- some take lots of low income students, some take very few. Those that take a few tend to be the elite universities, and they also tend to have higher graduation rates.

Hiler suggested that this has pushed lots of low income students into schools that don't have the resources to make sure these students can graduate.

"In a way, there is a case to be made that a lot of these elite institutions are perhaps perpetuating inequality in this country  by not doing more to take in more low and moderate income students," Hiler said.

However, federal data used for Third Way's analysis didn't account for transfer students. The group has been advocating the education department to collect more comprehensive data so better comparisons can be made. 

Hiler advises low income students to ask prospective schools what their graduation rates are for students who get Pell grants. 

An earlier version of this story did not include information about the federal data not including transfer students. 

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