Researchers at Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government have recently completed a study that tested the connection between institutional quality of a school and the completion rate of students who attend.
By analyzing the educational outcomes of students in Massachusetts public colleges, researchers found that there is a huge correlation between the two factors. Test subjects were students who were enrolled in a scholarship program that waives tuition fees for students with test scores above a specified level, and students in the program whose scores were below the specified level.
The scholarship program has been very successful in keeping smarter students in Massachusetts rather than attending another public or private university school out-of-state, but has not been very beneficial to those students who may be better suited for a higher-quality university. Many of them did not graduate in the standard four-year period.
“Choosing a lower-quality college significantly lowers on-time completion rates, a result driven by high-skilled students who would otherwise have attended higher-quality colleges,” the researchers explained. “For the marginal student, enrolling at an in-state public college lowered the probability of graduating on time by more than 40 percent.”
This study is important in the field of educational research because it is the first time that the evidence of the importance of university quality has been shown. Many high-achieving students are driven to attend universities they may be over-qualified for because of other considerations like tuition costs and distance away from home. In the college decision process, many families feel that quality is not the most important factor in picking a school.
Another important finding that the study noted was that students are extremely willing to not accept a spot at high-quality university if they are offered even a little bit of money from a lower-quality school.
It is definitely possible to get a good education anywhere in the United States, but for students just beginning the college search, it is important to set your sights on the best schools you can get into. If you love where you study and feel both mentally stimulated and happy with the social scene, you are likely to be that much more dedicated and driven to succeed. You only get to go to college once—make it count, and get the best education that you’re capable of!