John Fees is the Co-Founder and Managing Director of GradGuard™. Fees is a graduate of Arizona State University, where he received a bachelors of science degree in History and is also a graduate of Harvard Business School where he completed a Masters in Business Administration. John Fees lives in Phoenix, Arizona and is married to Melissa Soza Fees, Ph.D. and is the father of five children. He is the Treasurer for the Arizona College Success Arizona, a Director of College Parents of America, Founding Director and investor in Tonto Creek Camp which provides service leadership experiences to 8,000 students annually. He is also an active member of University Risk Management and Insurance Association and the Professional Insurance Marketers Association.
This is a follow-on to a LinkedIn post I created in 2014 and Titled: The Real Issue: Failing to Graduate is Costly. The statement remains even truer today. The National Center for Education Statistics confirms that the "6-year graduation rate for first-time, full-time undergraduate students who began their pursuit of a bachelor's degree at a 4-year degree-granting institution in fall 2008 was 60 percent."
What has changed is an awareness and a commitment by leaders in higher education such as Arizona State University President, Dr. Michael Crow who recently published a noteworthy article titled. "The Biggest Crisis in Higher Ed Isn't Student Debt, It's Students Who Don't Graduate"
Dr. Crow correctly argues "the greater crisis: the fact that more than half of those who start college fail to finish. Think about it: Tens of millions of people in the US are saddled with student debt and have no degree to help pay it off....In too many cases, they may never recover, leaving them feeling frustrated and bitter, disenfranchised and unable to find a way to better jobs and greater opportunity. Too many, saddled with debt and lacking a degree, feel trapped."
That statement is consistent with the 2014 quote from the New York Times "The vastly bigger problem is the hundreds of thousands of people who emerge from college with a modest amount of debt yet no degree. For them, college is akin to a house that they had to make the down payment on but can’t live in."
As an Arizona State University graduate and active in increasing college access and completion rates through College Success Arizona, I am pleased to read about the success of unique programs that Dr. Crow highlights such as eAdvisor and Major Maps. In addition, he reminds us of the value of corporate partnerships such as the College Achievement Plan created between ASU and Starbucks that aims to help Starbuck's employees their degrees.
In addition to the innovative approaches ASU has taken, more can be done to improve efforts to promote greater student success. Three specific topics that interest me that are worth greater discussion.
- Understanding Pipeline issues - specifically the academic readiness of students who enroll in college with insufficient skills to complete college level requirements. Articulating these common expectations is not just about a test score but about making sure that national curriculums meet international standards for literacy and numeracy.
- Understanding Family support - Academic achievement often reflects more complex factors such family socio-economic and educational attainment. Research from College Parents of America (where I serve as a Director) indicates that students with family support are more likely to graduate than those that have little to none.
- Understanding Risks that can Disrupt an Education - Next to the ability to afford college and complete the academic work, students report that "life-got-in-the-way" as the third reason why they may not complete a degree program. Growing efforts by schools to anticipate and provide protection from these unexpected events is noteworthy. Three small examples include efforts to provide robust residence life programs, student health, and counseling programs.
It is useful to broaden the discussion regarding student success and to give greater focus to the larger, more enduring problem of college completion. This is a big part of why Bill Suneson and I founded GradGuard. Our mission is to promote greater student success by helping to protect the investment students and their families make in a higher education.
GradGuard's student benefit programs help students and their families overcome the financial losses that can result from student illnesses, injuries, addiction, the death of a tuition payer as well as theft and even property damages.
Thankfully, more than 200 schools recognize the value of providing GradGuard to protect their students and provide convenient opportunities to enroll in our Tuition Protection Plan and College Renters Insurance Plan to help reduce the financial losses that may otherwise interrupt a student's path towards graduation.