Mike Kueber's Blog

March 9, 2012

College graduation rate

Filed under: Education — Mike Kueber @ 11:05 am
Tags: , , ,

My first two sons graduated from college in four years.  With all the talk about four-year graduations being a thing of the past, I grew a little smug.  Then my third son took seven years – standard reasons such as switching majors and light loads.  As Judy Collins sang, “I’ve looked at life from both sides now,” and finishing in four in better. 

For several months, the Texas Tribune has been reporting on the state of Texas’s efforts to address its perceived problem with its universities’ failure to graduate its students in a timely manner.  (I say “perceived” because the six-year-completion rate in Texas is 49%, which places Texas in the 17th position nationwide.  Since when is placing 17th a problem with Texas education?)

According to the most recent article in the Tribune, UTEP in El Paso has the worst rate of all the public schools in Texas, with only ten percent of its students graduating within four years.  My alma mater, UT, has the highest four-year rate at 53%. 

Based on those numbers, you might think that UT would be resting on its laurels while UTEP would be scrambling to catch up, but such thinking would be wrong.  Instead, UT has already instituted a wide-ranging program to improve its already-best rate while UTEP has proffered justifications for its low rate.  Among those justifications are: 

  • UTEP has virtually open admissions, with a 97% acceptance rate, and such an admissions policy will naturally allow in unprepared students.
  • UTEP has an exceptionally large percentage of low-income and first-generation students.

I’ve always been a proponent for holding managers responsible for their fundamental results while criticizing those who manage to superficial, albeit sometimes informative metrics (or are adept at explaining away their unsatisfactory results).  The question is whether UTEP’s graduation rate is a fundamental result or merely a superficial, informative metric that can be explained away. 

I think University of Texas System Chancellor Francisco Cigarroa has it just right when, according to the Tribune article, he “wants all institutions in the system to raise four-year graduation rates, and indicated they will be held accountable if they fail. While he thinks such data points are important, he said they should be measured in a nuanced way that reflects the reality of an institution’s student population.”

Based on Cigarroa’s statement, I suggest that the president of UTEP needs an attitude adjustment.  She needs to get busy at improving UTEP’s graduation rate instead of justifying it.  Perhaps its open-admissions policy has to go. 

Lat year, my fourth son encountered the absence of an open-admissions policy when he attempted to enroll at some selective public colleges in Texas.  He was told that his academic preparation was inadequate for admission and that he would be better off attending a junior college.  I think that was sound advice.  El Paso has a large junior college, too.  Maybe that’s where more of the UTEP students need to go.


1 Comment »

  1. Just to enhance your knowledge the 4yr graduation rates does not include the mass majority of students that do attend the Junior college and transfer to the University as well as the students who transfer in due to military. Thus the 4yr graduation rate is an inadequate measure of students at any University and if you look at the entire UT system it’s not looking much better…hmmm words for thought

    Comment by KJ — May 7, 2012 @ 6:45 pm | Reply

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