Walmart Wants You to Get a Degree

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Most Americans now believe going to college is crucial. This is true even of first-generation college students, who now attend college in record numbers. Almost 20 percent of freshmen at four-year school are the first people in their families to attend college. The numbers are likely higher at two-year schools. The problem with first-generation students is not getting them into college; it’s getting them out with degrees.

According to a piece by Sara Lipka in the Chronicle of Higher Education, the Walmart Foundation is working to improve the graduation rate by giving $10 million to colleges:

Wal-Mart has given $5.3-million to the Council of Independent Colleges, to make grants to its small, private members; the group announced 20 in 2008 and plans to award 30 more next month. All awards are $100,000…. The small private colleges are largely focused on improving retention through student services, and the minority-serving institutions, through academics.

Walmart earlier gave $5 million to study retention policies for first-generation students. The new grants will be used by schools to set up programs geared toward first-generation students. Colleges plan to create seminars in things like career preparation, study skills, and stress management

It’s unlikely this latest grant will result in major increases in student retention, however. The reason first-generation college students don’t finish college is hardly a great mystery. Past studies indicate that students mostly drop out of college for financial reasons. A program in stress management isn’t going to have much effect on the college dropout rate if colleges don’t address the source of the stress: the cost of college.

Daniel Luzer

Daniel Luzer is the news editor at Governing Magazine and former web editor of the Washington Monthly. Find him on Twitter: @Daniel_Luzer