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Return to the Top: The Role of Increasing College Productivity in America's Quest for Global Leadership in Degree Attainment

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Goldrick-Rab, Sara; Harris, Douglas
Apr 20, 2010
Accountability, Autonomy, and Politics; Access, Persistence, and Success; Finance and Economics
As America's supply of skilled workers falls behind demand, the country is losing its long-held advantage over competing nations. Many leaders -- most notably President Obama -- have made it a national priority to return the United States to its former place as number one in the world in degree attainment. However, declines in the production of college graduates pose a major challenge to achieving this goal; this is unsurprising, partly because little research has explored the cost-effectiveness of various college programs. Professors Harris and Goldrick-Rab will present findings from a study that begins to fill this void by combining rigorous evidence on the impacts of prominent programs with information about costs to produce estimates of cost-effectiveness. They consider policies ranging from smaller faculty-student ratios to need-based financial aid and the TRIO programs, concluding that many of these programs have high costs compared with their relatively small impact on students.
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