Last week we looked at which accreditors had the most lenient standards (by one measure anyway) for four-year colleges. Today, we’ll look at the same question for two-year colleges.
We identified two-year colleges with possibly loose graduation requirements (colleges with a much higher default rate than we would expect based on their graduation rate*) and tallied the number of such colleges for each accreditor. The chart below shows that North Central, Southern, and Middle States have the greatest number of two-year colleges with possibly lax graduation requirements.
But note that those accreditors also oversee many more two-year colleges, as shown in the figure below.
To account for these differences, the chart below shows the percent of each accreditor’s two-year colleges with possibly lax graduation requirements. Any accreditor with greater than 25 percent of its colleges likely to have low graduation standards may be too lenient with the colleges they oversee.
While caution is again warranted (the analysis is based solely on graduation and default rates), Northwest, North Central, New England, and Middle States are all above 25 percent, meaning they all may be too lenient with the two-year colleges they accredit. Southern is right at 25 percent, and Western is significantly under, meaning that by this measure, they hold their two-year colleges to relatively higher standards.
The other big difference between the four- and two-year results is the composition of colleges with possibly lax graduation requirements. At the four-year level, there was a substantial number of each type of college (public, private nonprofit, and private for-profits) with private, nonprofits being the largest component. But at the two-year level, public colleges dominate the list of schools that are possibly too lenient in their graduation requirements (though note that a disproportionate share of for-profits did not have enough data to be included).
*We started with all two-year colleges with all the required data and at least 250 students. Next we ran a regression with the adjusted default rate (official default rate multiplied by the percent of undergraduates borrowing) as the dependent variable and the graduation rate as the independent variable. We then calculated the residual for each college, or the amount of the school’s adjusted default rate that is not explained by its graduation rate. A high residual indicates that the college may have lower graduation standards because its students are defaulting at a much higher-than-expected rate. We then classified the 25 percent of colleges with the highest residual as having possibly low graduation standards.