Graduation rates failure

The U must do more work to raise four- and six-year graduation rates.

Despite some recent successes, the University of Minnesota still has a shortfall with its graduation rates. In 1993, only 18 percent of students were four-year grads; that proportion rose to 41 percent by 2006. University goals aim for 60 percent of the 2008 freshmen to graduate within four years and 80 percent to graduate within six. The University and its students benefit from stronger graduation rates. These numbers help University prestige. Twenty percent of U.S. News and World ReportâÄôs college ranking criteria are based on six-year graduation and freshmen retention rates. Students who graduate in a timely manner tend to be more involved on campus, helping create a greater sense of University community. Furthermore, students taking 12 or fewer credits still use non-class resources (libraries, One Stop, advising, etc.) comparable to more academically-involved students, spreading University resources thinner. To encourage students to graduate efficiently saves students years of time and thousands of dollars. The University deserves credit for instituting policies designed to improve graduation rates. Midterm grade reports for students in danger of failing 1xxx-level courses are an early warning system to help keep students from failing to receive credit for courses, and charging degree-seeking students for 13 credits at most provides a student incentive to take more credits and stay on track to graduate. The Four-Year Graduation Plan shows students that the University expects them to graduate in four years and provides a road map for students to do so. Phone calls from the editorial board about the administrationâÄôs perspective on successful graduation rate-raising methods were not returned by press time. If the University wants to reach its graduation goals, there are more steps to take. Academic under-preparedness is common among dropouts. In the wake of the General College closing its doors, added study skills courses are a must. Also, students may currently drop courses until the eight-week mark without any outside information, help or guidance, allowing them to be rash about drops. After the first two weeks, drops become fiscally, temporally and psychically costly: high numbers of drops on a studentâÄôs transcript coincide with dropping out. And if dropping classes leaves a student below 12 credits, he or she will likely fall behind schedule for a four- or five-year graduation. Advisers should be notified of such drops and warn students of their costs. There is also an issue with âÄústopouts,âÄù those students who take a semester or more off and intend to return, but donâÄôt finish. One way to mitigate the stopout problem is to initiate a cohesive and publicized effort to make the âÄútraditionalâÄù college experience (full-time student, less than 20 hours of work per week, no stopping out) more attractive to juniors and seniors. Junior seminars and increased grant and scholarship aid specifically targeted to juniors and seniors could discourage stopouts. One of the most important things the University can do is to provide information and counseling to students about finances and work. Over half of âÄústopoutâÄù students in the 2001 University report âÄúImproving Our Graduation RatesâÄù said that work or finances were the primary reason they left school and never returned. Many students feel pressure to work in order to offset the costs of education and keep debt down, but few are told that a student who takes five or six years to graduate because they work often graduates financially worse off than those who take on loan debt but graduate in four years. The student who graduates in four years will not only save four semesters of ever-increasing tuition and fees (avoid the likely tuition spike of 2011 if possible), but will also enter the workforce with a college degree two years earlier than six-year grads. The University has a responsibility to increase four- and six-year graduation rates. Potential fixes could aid both the University and its students.