A college degree is the key to unlocking many of the best careers in the modern labor market. But more than 20 million working-age adults in the United States are college dropouts, failed in some way by institutions that collectively receive hundreds of billions of dollars in public funding every year.
For the last few decades, the Department of Education has tracked graduation rates at colleges. Although a handful of elite colleges have graduation rates above 90 percent, many are below 50 percent — often, far below. But colleges have long complained that the federal rates are inaccurate. Back in 2008, Congress directed the department to study the matter.