ASU dismisses criticism of its low graduation rates

by Matthew Ladner, Ph.D. 
Goldwater Institute
In February, I wrote an article about the graduation rates at our community colleges and universities. I pointed out that they are near the bottom of national rankings. ABC 15 did a story focusing on Arizona State University’s four-year graduation rate of 28 percent.

An ASU spokeswoman argued in the news story there is not a problem with dropouts, but with the statistics, saying “The idea of four-year graduation rate, it doesn’t take into account over half of the students that go to college.”

The federal government, not the Goldwater Institute, collects the statistics cited. In fact, the universities themselves enter the data into the federal database. Furthermore, the statistics cited only take into account students who had a full class schedule and were seeking an undergraduate degree.

The late Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan once said, “The single most exciting thing you encounter in government is competence, because it’s so rare.” This self-reported data reveals a disturbing lack of competence in what ought to be ASU’s core mission as a public university: educating and graduating students.

Dr. Matthew Ladner is vice president of research for the Goldwater Institute.


  1. Just discovered how the AIMS really manisfests thru last week’s graduating class. Basically, it keeps AZ students in a little underachieving bubble in state. AIMS top scorers get free or highly discounted tuition at any AZ state university.

    The school valdectorian 4.0 is going to ASU. She did not take the SAT, but scored high on AIMS to get a sizable tuition break.
    We know for a FACT that the Algebra II class she was in only completed Chapter 3 of a 13 chapter AZ-AIMS-designed textbook, primarily because last year’s Algebra I pre-requisite class only made it to chapter 4.

    That would make her mathematics level of achievement completely inadequate for any normal college preparation. Her transcript shows A+ on everything. Yay! But if she had taken the SAT, the truth of her low academic grasp of mathematics would have been revealed. No way would she have made even a weak 400 on the math. Piss results.

    SHe’s the valedectorian, so, everyone else who is also got AIMS tuition-break scores are even LESS qualified than she.

    Last year, at an EXPENSIVE private school, we saw 90% of the graduates headed to ASU, GRand Canyon, NAU, and Yavapai County Community college. Only the exchange Chinese students and ONE American student were headed out of state. One – the kid of the school college counselor.

    This graduating class, 99% are going to AZ state colleges. ONE is going out of state .. our kid. The ONLY one in the entire school who took the SAT.

    AZ Public school education is handing out pretty grades and an array of “required college-prep courses” with nothing behind them. SO, then send these students to a massive university like ASU, known across the country as the nation’s premier “Party School” where no one even knows if they’ve showed up for class or cares, because there are 400 people in the lecture hall, and they don’t understand what they’re reading because their high school didn’t give them the necessary background.

    The Arizona high schools, public and too many private, are giving the LOOK of the right background, but not the substance. They are graduating rafts of students who have not been given the academic skills, no facts, no calculating competencies, including HOW to study effectively to succeed in college. They rush in all excited, and are shocked to bomb their first mid-term, flame out on the finals, party party party, flounder the second semester … and that’s it. Game Over.

    New Mexico’s state university system is having the very same problem. It’s not just AZ, though AZ and NM share the bottom rankings in the USA, and should have fixed this years ago instead of making it worse.

  2. Stephen Kohut says

    This is why community colleges have to teach remedial everything that freshmen were supposed to have learning in high school. AIMS tests are dummied down and the scores reported to parents, the state, etc. are normalized. You have to look at the criteria based results they don’t discuss to find out that Johnny is an uneducated illiterate.

    When I was in high school back in the dark ages of the 1970’s I had 3 years of college calculus before I graduated with similar college level classes in hard sciences, English, Italian, and on and on. Unlike my friend who pulled a perfect 1600 in the SAT I only recorded a 1480 and was ranked about 90th in a graduating class of over 900.

    I am not surprised in the least with the failure of kids to graduate from ASU as the product graduating from the high schools is crap.

  3. Jane 001 says

    Not to worry! This will all be fixed with an 18% hike is sales taxes.

  4. Aren’t monopolies great?

  5. Yeah, right. says

    Gee, wanumba, then you wasted your money. I saw a lot of public high school kids from Chapparral and Sunnyslope going out of state. University of Chicago, Berzerkly, Stanford, etc.

    The problem seems to lie with your choice of school and the parents who set such low goals for their kids.

  6. Stephen Kohut says

    Yeah right,

    Maybe you should be on the hiring end of the uneducated illiterate graduates coming out of high school as I am. The Arizona high school student that is functional in math, reading and writing is an rarity. As a customer of the public schools their product sucks.

  7. Yeah, right. Says:
    May 26th, 2010 at 8:47 pm
    Gee, wanumba, then you wasted your money

    Gee, the graduating class was out of the AZ public school system, so you are 100% right, AZ taxpayers are wasting their money. Now, an 18% tax hike to perpetuate the same old crap.

    It was illustrative to show that it’s a pervasive problem in AZ, found in public, private and charter. The AIMS allows schools to aim LOW, to dodge more rigorous standards.

    There is a reason for FAIL in ASU. Several easily identifiable reasons working in conjunction to set students up to FAIL.

    Totally perverse environment, all those years of not challenging kids and building their “self-esteem,” but never building their skill base so they FAIL at college, a FAIL and confidence killer that they’ll carry for the rest of their lives.

  8. Yeah, right. Says:
    May 26th, 2010 at 8:47 pm
    Gee, wanumba, then you wasted your money. I saw a lot of public high school kids from Chapparral and Sunnyslope going out of state. University of Chicago, Berzerkly, Stanford, etc.

    Check their dropout rates. Not a pretty picture either.

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