A new report shows that Houston is home to public colleges with the lowest graduation rates in Texas – and perhaps in the nation.
The study even goes as far as to calling those schools, "dropout factories" – a label some schools named in the report, are not too happy about.
Hiler says "dropout factories" is a term that's long been applied to high schools, but colleges deserve the same critical scrutiny.
"When a high school in this country is not graduating more than two-thirds of its student body," says Hiler, "the federal government actually says that a state or a district has to intervene in that high school and put in place a support plan or an intervention plan to make sure that a school is paying attention in getting that graduation rate up. Yet, at the college level, no such comparable bar exists."
The study found that the University of Houston-Downtown had the lowest graduation rate in Texas – just 13 percent of U-H-Downtown students earn a degree within six years.
But the school's Interim President, Dr. Michael Olivas, says those numbers are misleading and don't reveal the complete story.
He says that almost half of the students at UHD are the first in their families to go to college and about two-thirds of its students end up transferring from other campuses or community colleges to UHD.
Dr. Olivas says compared to where he's employed, Texas' top universities get a disproportionate share of resources.
"When flagship schools in College Station and in Austin just as examples, are 50,000 students, " UHD's leader says, "who take mostly advantaged students and who are subsidized heavily by research grants as well as endowments that are long-established by law, the Permanent University Funds, I don't think that everybody is going to have the same opportunities that they do."
Indeed, the report does show that the schools in Texas with the highest completion rates are Texas A&M in College Station followed by the University of Texas at Austin.
Dr. Olivas adds that UHD charges the fifth lowest tuition in the state and students who do graduate from the school, finish with less debt.
Hiler does acknowledge that the report only shows data for first-time, full-time students – not transfers or those students who are part-time.
“The purpose of the study,” its co-author says, “is to shift conversations away from just cost, in a year when political candidates have been promising ‘free college tuition,' but instead to a conversation of value – making sure we're bringing value to students' lives when they decide to enroll in a school and take out loans and sort of expect to have college be their ticket to the middle class."
The report also showed that Texas Southern University has the eighth-lowest completion rate of any four-year college in the nation and charges students more than the national average.
TSU officials did not respond to a request for comment on the study.