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Would you enroll in college (or send your son or daughter), if you (or they) had only a 5 percent chance of graduating?

What about 10 percent? 15 percent?

… No?

More than 450,000 students do it every year, enrolling in four-year colleges and universities with atrociously low graduation rates — so low, in fact, that students are more than five times as likely to drop out or transfer than earn the degree they were seeking. (Not sure which those colleges are? Check out our interactive map.)

CRO mapThe college advisers and counselors we’ve been talking to at the National College Access Network 2014 conference this week were just as surprised. We’re here, sharing Ed Trust’s Tough Love work and our user-friendly website, College Results Online, both of which direct our focus to the colleges and universities that fall in the bottom 5 percent of six-year graduation rates nationally. (These colleges have graduation rates of 16 percent or lower.) If these institutions can’t help even the smallest fraction of students get a degree, we argue that they must either improve or no longer receive a chunk of the $180 billion in federal financial aid and tax benefits distributed to colleges every year.

And so far, most everyone here agrees. In fact, they’re surprised that we have set such a conservative threshold. “My personal benchmark for students is 50 percent,” a high school counselor told us earlier this week, after we had pointed out the 100 some colleges and universities that have graduation rates below 16 percent. He said he didn’t recommend colleges with graduation rates below 50 percent. “Think about it. If I have greater than a 1-in-2 chance of getting hit by car, I’m not going to cross the street,” he quipped.

Sounds reasonable to us. Would you want to cross that street?

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