Money Can’t Buy You Graduates

Here are the 2017 4-year cohort division federal graduation rates plotted vs. the 2016 division disbursements per student.


The disbursements do not include facility costs, debt service, or contingency reserve payments.  We’re stuck with 2016 numbers because VDOE won’t post the ‘17 data until sometime next spring.

The slope of the fitted line, –0.2% per thousand dollars, suggests that increasing division expenditures are associated with decreasing graduation rates.  The 0.6% R-squared, however, tells us that the two variables are essentially uncorrelated.

Richmond is the gold square on the graph.  The red circles are, from the top, the peer cities Newport News, Hampton, and Norfolk.  Charles City is green; Lynchburg is aqua.

For a look at the other end of the academic process, here are the dropout rates plotted vs. disbursements.


The slope again suggests a counter-intuitive result: dropout rate increasing by 0.3% per thousand dollar expenditure increase.  But, also again, the R-squared tells us that the correlation of the two variables is negligible. 

The color codes are the same and the previous graph except the peer cities are reversed: from the top, Norfolk, Hampton, and Newport News.

Finally, while all those data are together in a single Excel file, let’s plot the dropout rate vs. the graduation rate.


At last, a correlation.  And one that makes sense: The divisions that graduate more of their students lose fewer as dropouts.  BUT, of course, the correlation does not imply that the higher graduation rates cause the lower dropout rates, or vice versa.

The color codes are the same as above.  The peers, from the left, are Norfolk, Hampton, and Newport News.