Whether or not a student graduates depends upon his or her willingness to do what the school requires. At schools with low graduation rates, it’s not the case that students are like gamblers in a game where the odds are greatly against them. It’s just that most of the students who enroll are weak, disengaged, and don’t do what is required. The percentage of students who do graduate didn’t get lucky; they did the work to earn the credits they needed.That's a variant on the subprime party school hypothesis -- the administrators are more interested in securing the tuition revenue than in producing either thinkers or holders of solid credentials. There's some evidence that the more highly regarded universities have higher graduation rates, but that could be self-selection at work.
Searching for a school with a relatively high graduation rate isn’t necessarily going to ensure success for a student with poor academic skills and habits.The college boards, letters of reference, and middle-class work habits matter after all. Social construction be hanged, those poor academic skills show up in the dossier and the thin envelope comes the other way.
Also, it’s possible that schools with higher graduation rates get those rates because they have contrived to make it easy for students to pass courses and stay on track for graduation no matter how weak their ability and how slight their academic progress — the problem Arum and Roksa discuss in Academically Adrift. And as we know, simply having a degree to your name doesn’t guarantee a job that pays even moderately well. Schools that manage to string along weak students until they graduate might be doing them more harm than good.Complex Proposition alert -- there might be some stringing along going on, but there's probably self-selection as well: the more academically motivated matriculants hope for the thick envelopes from the institutions where a critical mass of other academically motivated matriculants is present.