US urged to look across Atlantic for tips on how to cut dropout rates

April 9, 2004

British universities excel at managing the transition of students from school to degree courses, and US universities could learn from them in order to cut dropout rates, a conference heard last week.

Thomas Weko, a British Council Atlantic fellow in public policy, said: "For the past 40 years, federal higher education policy in the US has focused on helping students enter higher education, annually providing billions of dollars in grant and loan assistance. What happens after students enter post-secondary education has received far less attention.

"US state policy-makers should carefully study England's experience at joining upper secondary to university education."

About a third of US students fail to complete courses; in Britain only 16 per cent of students drop out.

US dropout rates are also far higher for students from low socioeconomic groups than they are for those from higher socioeconomic groups. Some 60 per cent of students from poor families drop out, compared to 20 per cent of those from the richest families.

Dr Weko examined international figures to see if greater student participation rates prompt higher dropout rates in Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development countries, but he found no correlation between the two.

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