The following combines information from government and standardized testing company resources, years of experience with college fairs/marketing, working with, through, against and in spite of school administrations, direct consumer-query challenges to college admissions teams, and that acquired via numerous other strategies employed to understand the business of college education.
The school colors are green and gold. The pom-poms shake and free gifts are offered generously at the Fall college fairs. Prospective students and their families are offered free tickets to home football games with one hand, and marketing or application materials with the other. The high school counselors scurry around the gym, their faces glowing, proud of the events they coordinated.
Two days later, the newspaper reports the contents of an interview with a local university President. The President quite reluctantly responded to queries about the school's very poor graduation rates, the high percentage of students they allow to matriculate into remedial courses (paying full tuition to take non-college credit classes), and regarding their apparent failure to work with the regional high school systems so that their incoming students would be better prepared to start college work.
Interestingly, if you look at historical student performance statistics, for the vast majority of schools these findings are not new (good or bad). What may be new is that increasing numbers of prospective applicants are looking at graduation rates, the average number of years taken to graduate, as well as average post-graduation student debt, and school-assisted job placement effectiveness. Unfortunately, under duress, college administrations are casting blame upon the students.
Of course, too many students reach campuses believing that every week should include sports entertainment and elements of contemporary "Animal House" experiences, with a modicum of adjustments for the schools' specific missions, the local environments, and reflecting the student bodies. However, most incoming students actually understand the true objectives of their attendance. That said, the admissions committees are professionals, as are those employed to teach, counsel, perform research, manage finances, and provide all other administrative support. By history, the institutions know exactly who they recruit and accept; their student body profile. They know the student body strengths as well as the distribution of academic, social and financial challenges they will face with their students. As such, by accepting the students and their money, they are saying "We are able [in every manner] to successfully instruct, develop, graduate and deliver these student-customers to quality positions in the market."
But, colleges and universities have not been effective. The average school graduates only fifty percent of its students in six (6) years, and most cannot afford to spend more than six years in college, thereby never graduating. Schools do not want to be accountable to "helicopter parents" who wish to kept in the "progress loop" regarding more than unpaid bills. Additionally, as many senior leaders are unwilling or unable to explain the shortcomings of their business models, educational institutions simply blame the failures on the students and all those associated with them (family, guardians, associates, prior educational systems, and so on). Who needs colleges and universities with such attitudes as those?... Not you!!