A new report from the Massachusetts Department of Higher Education points to a need to increase graduation rates at the state’s public colleges and universities. It also warns these schools will soon fail to produce enough graduates to fill high- demand jobs.
The six-year graduation rate for first-time freshmen at the state universities in Massachusetts is 50 percent, and that falls short of the graduation rates achieved by the leading state university systems in the country.
It is one statistic out of an 88 page report that taken as a whole shows the state’s public colleges and universities have room for improvement, according to Massachusetts Higher Education Commissioner Richard Freeland.
Freeland said Massachusetts, which relies on brainpower for an innovation driven economy, cannot afford to have a public higher education system that is just average.
The report is the second annual one produced for the Vision Project--a campaign to promote higher education in Massachusetts. It finds that not only is Massachusetts not on track to produce overall the number of college graduates needed, but will fall well short in high- need fields.
The report projects that by 2020 the number of students with math, science, engineering and technology degrees will fall short of employer needs by some 36,000.
Freeland says there also needs to be a focus on the so-called “readiness gap” that finds many high school graduates in Massachusetts unprepared to do college work. This can cause students to become frustrated and drop out.
The higher education commissioner has been sharing the 2013 Vision Project annual report with business groups around the state as he tries to drum up support for increased state funding for the state’s public colleges.
Jeff Ciuffreda, the president of the Greater Springfield Chamber of Commerce, said the report points to the need for more dialogue between the business community and educators.
Although not part of the Vision Project report, Freeland has also recently sounded an alarm about college student loan debt, which has increased by 27 percent in three years.