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Archive for Sunday, October 18, 2009

Regents propose higher targets

Following governor’s lead, board wants to increase retention, graduation rates at state universities

October 18, 2009

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Kansas Board of Regents is pushing the heads of the state’s universities to increase student retention and graduation rates.

Regents President and CEO Reginald Robinson has proposed setting a goal of increasing the retention rate 10 percentage points above the national average of peer institutions over the next 10 years. The retention rate measures the percentage of freshmen who finish their first year and return the second year.

Research institutions, such as Kansas University, Kansas State University and Wichita State University, have a retention rate of 77.5 percent. The peer rate is 80 percent, so a 12.5 percent increase would be necessary to achieve the goal of 90 percent retention, Robinson said.

On graduation rates, research institutions in Kansas have a rate of 56.9 percent compared with a peer rate of 59.6 percent. KU, K-State and WSU would have to increase their rates 12.7 percent to hit the goal of 69.6 percent, Robinson said. The graduation rate measures the percentage of students who graduate within six years of starting school.

This summer, Gov. Mark Parkinson urged regents to work on increasing these rates as a way to improve the national rankings of the schools.

The university chiefs, however, have told the regents that achieving such increases, even over a long period of time, is a complex task.

“It’s not a simple issue,” said KU Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little.

“Part of the ability to do this really will depend on some change in attitude and preparation of students who come to the university,” she said. KU has a task force analyzing this issue.

Simply put, boosting retention and graduation rates means enrolling academically higher-quality students, and that means tougher admission standards.

Making it tougher for the children of Kansas taxpayers to get into a regents university will certainly face opposition.

And the university leaders also point out that retention and graduation data are often misleading because many students, especially in the current economy, hop in and out of the higher education system at different schools.

But during a discussion last week, regents members seemed intent on putting goals in front of the schools, saying that while the data may be imperfect, it is imperfect for all schools.

The regents are expected to discuss the issue for several more months before adopting a plan.

“When we signed up for this, we didn’t want to be average,” said Regent Bill Thornton. “I think we need to improve.”

Comments

LogicMan 5 years, 2 months ago

"The graduation rate measures the percentage of students who graduate within six years of starting school."

Isn't it four years?

Or are there two measures, and if so, what about the four year graduation rate?

RogueThrill 5 years, 2 months ago

Isn't it four years?

Or are there two measures, and if so, what about the four year graduation rate?

It's 4 years if you don't have to work to put yourself through. Or if you don't switch majors.

I actually spent 7 years in undergrad, which is a lot. MY first two years I anticipated getting an undergrad in comm and eventually getting a PhD that put me on track to allow me to be a Director of Forensics at a University.

I woke up one day, with the help of my debate coach nonetheless, and realized it was a bad idea financially. So I switched majors to engineering. I don't know that KU was the correct choice for that degree, but it took me 5 years to complete because I had to work my way through and because the majors are, for the most part unrelated.

Since I worked the night shift at the Computer Center it was difficult for me to take more than 12 or 15 hours and still sleep and get the grades I needed to get through. That and I had to retake a bunch of math to get caught up since I had not taken any since precalc my Junior year of high school.

Konza 5 years, 2 months ago

Required reporting graduation rates for institutions such as KU are 1 1/2 times (150%) - so for a 4-year program, their graduation rate would be reported for 6 years. Hope this helps. Ten percent seems a bold target, but cannot fault the state for encouraging institutions to perform better. I have always gotten the sense the state has our students' best interests at heart - that being providing the best possible environment for success!

KU_cynic 5 years, 2 months ago

The regents institutions' embarrassing rate of retention (77.5% -- meaning 22.5% non-retention) reflects two things: a) the regents schools are not sufficiently selective -- they admit too many students whose lack of success can be predicted by grades, high school curriculum rigor, and ACT/SAT scores, and b) Kansas schools do not sufficiently prepare many students for college.

Lack of selectivity is easily remedied: have regents schools be more selective -- and be smaller in terms of enrollment and live with the consequences in terms of tuition revenues. The "cost" is political -- busting the myth that anyone with a Kansas high school diploma (and not much else) is ready for college.

The second issue is the real one. Kansas K-12 (especially high schools) do not prepare many students who aspire to college for its rigors.

As a KU professor I fear faculty will be pressured to dumb down requirements and coddle failing students in order to improve retention of poor students, with the unintended consequence of lowering expectations for all students. I've already been able to perceive the effects of greater emphasis on "student success": students are more spoiled, more pampered, less resourceful, and less self reliant than they were 15 or even 10 years years ago.

I refuse to play along with this little delusion anymore, and have been steadily giving out more and more Cs, Ds, and Fs that accurately reflect the abilities and efforts of the students who earn these grades. As a result, I am getting fewer and fewer -- but better and better -- students in my classes, as the dense ones go elsewhere for the credits they need. Shame on my colleagues who enable weak students with easy courses, low standards, and easy grades. Shame on the regents if this would be their recipe for improving stats on student retention.

Sean Livingstone 5 years, 2 months ago

I don't agree to reducing the quality of students just to make sure they get a degree. Even if the drop out rate remains high, the most important thing is to assure the quality of our school. You earn your way at school, like you earn your promotion at work. Better teachers are needed, but somehow, I get the idea from my alma mater that teaching doesn't really matter.... it's how an instructor forces knowledge into students by forcing them to learn how to learn themselves. Yes... you get all the TAs at many "brand" name schools, and you don't even get to see the Professors that frequently, unlike at KU. If we're allowed to do that, by "forcing" students to learn more, without putting so much weights on our evaluations, I believe we'll be able to produce great students that industry wants. What's the point of producing many students that no one really wants?

UlyssesPro 5 years, 2 months ago

I think that we are looking at this issue through antiquated lenses. Ku is a glorified high school, which is its most serious problem. Students who make it into college should be allowed to study their own interests and not have to be dragged through hours and hours of worthless gen eds.

Why don't we save money by chopping out all the worthless classes and allow students focus on what they want to learn. We save money by trimming the waste; we encourage students to foster a more responsible attitude toward their studies (no hand holding, no intro classes), yet we allow all who want to try a chance. This increases the academic pressure not by increasing test scores or making classes harder, but by creating an institution that really is about learning and not about arbitrary games.

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