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College Dropout Crisis Hits Mountain West

The map depicts analysis done by The New York Times and the Urban Institute's Center on Education Data and Policy.
The map depicts analysis done by The New York Times and the Urban Institute's Center on Education Data and Policy.

There’s a college dropout crisis in America. That’s according to a recent report from the New York Times and the Urban Institute’s Center on Education Data and Policy. They found that roughly one in three students who enroll in college never earn a degree.

And many of the colleges and universities found to struggle with graduation rates are located in our region.

Patrick Lane, vice president for policy analysis and research at the Western Interstate Commission For Higher Education, said there isn’t one reason colleges are struggling with graduation rates and there’s no one solution, but he said a stronger focus on mental health may help.

“There aren’t necessarily effective policies and practices at all universities for serving students. In some cases, there may be adequate mental health resources. In other cases a student might not be able to get an appointment with a therapist or counselor for several weeks,” said Lane.

Our region averages some of the highest depression and suicide rates in the nation.

Lane said adequate student mental health support combined with affordable tuition is likely to improve college graduation rates.

He said he sees higher education in our region taking action.

“Across the West, there are a lot of innovative practices and changes that have taken place in recent years that should start to bring those numbers up,” said Lane.

Lane said Wyoming and Idaho are working to better integrate K-12 and college curriculums, and Colorado is looking at ways to reduce the cost of textbooks and materials to make college more affordable.

This story was produced by the Mountain West News Bureau, a collaboration between Wyoming Public Media, Boise State Public Radio in Idaho, KUER in Salt Lake City, KUNR in Nevada, and KRCC and KUNC in Colorado.

Copyright 2021 Wyoming Public Radio. To see more, visit Wyoming Public Radio.