Thursday, May 09, 2019

Susan Dynarski testifies before House committee about college completion


Dr. Susan Dynarski served as a witness at a May 9 hearing held by the U.S. House Subcommittee on Higher Education and Workforce Investment. She was joined by colleagues Dr. M. David Rudd of The University of Memphis, Dr. Pam Y. Eddinger of Bunker Hill Community College in Boston, and Mr. Kyle Ethelbah, Director of Federal TRIO programs at The University of Utah.

Committee Chairwoman Susan A. Davis (D-CA) opened the session by stating that there is considerable work to be done in higher education policy. “We cannot sit idly while every day students across the country are forced to choose between their degree, their income, their children, and their health,” she said.

Dynarski contributed statistics to the session and answered questions about the health of our current higher education system: “Unless we increase completion rates for disadvantaged Black and Latino students, we’re looking at a sharp decrease in the education of our population,” she said. She discussed factors that affect completion rates and offered statistics on current completion rates at public 4-year colleges, community colleges, and for-profit colleges. “Completing college is the key to unlocking its benefits,” she said, while also noting that Black students in public universities are about 12% less likely to graduate than White students.

Dynarski’s testimony also described high loan default rates for non-completers who have debt but do not benefit from the salary increase associated with attainment of a college degree. Furthermore, she illustrated the detrimental life impacts on individuals who default on college loans.

“We generally have a shredded safety net and that applies to students as well. What we’re left with is colleges having to play the role that social policy programs should play,” she added. She noted that a failure of public policy has led to low graduation rates and for-profit students ending up with high debt loads.

Dynarski is a professor in the Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy and in the Center for the Study of Higher and Postsecondary Education. She has previously testified before the U.S. Senate Committee on Finance, the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions, the U.S. House Ways and Means Committee, and the President's Commission on Tax Reform.

Susan Dynarski is Professor, School of Education; Professor of Public Policy, Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy; Professor, Department of Economics, College of Literature, Science, and the Arts

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