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MPR News set out to delve into an underreported fact -- that Minnesota’s high school graduation rates for students of color rank among the very worst in the nation -- and ended up making a profound discovery: Minnesota devotes less to non-classroom student support than any state. The category includes guidance counselors, social workers, nurses and mental health counselors, attendance staff and other positions that education experts says are key to keeping students at risk of dropping out of school on the path to graduations. The link between support spending and graduation rates appears to be stronger than other oft-mentioned factors to explain low rates for students of color. http://www.mprnews.org/story/2016/06/01/grad-gap-highlights
In the first radio piece: Interviews with former recruiters, faculty, administrators and students of a small group of for-profit colleges in Minnesota paint a picture of schools that are exploiting unsophisticated students for their financial-aid money. Analysis points to a high-enrollment, high-dropout business model that earns the company millions but provides questionable return on taxpayer investment. In the second radio piece: Political differences at the federal level make it unclear how much the government will regulate for-profit colleges. At the Minnesota state level, the leading official for higher-ed says his agency doesn’t have the resources to go after problem colleges – and isn’t sure whether beefing up enforcement would be the best use of higher-education funding.
This project, which included three major stories and several smaller pieces, revealed the many problems that plague education funding in Illinois. The investigation found that reliance on property taxes to fund education leads to funding inequalities that keep lower-income neighborhoods at a disadvantage. The story also found that the state loses $10 billion in "social costs" (such as prisons and public assistance) from high school dropouts. Finally, the reporters also found that higher levels of education do not necessarily guarantee higher test scores.
The popular plan, along with Florida's low education funding and cheap tuition, is locking state colleges and universities in a lethal spiral of mediocrity. A deadly combo: low state funding and cheap tuition.