As graduation rates drop, so does retention

Pulse Editor and Pulse Editor

Women are graduating in higher percentages than men while retention remains a key priority, results from ongoing University research shows.

Joseph Frizado, vice provost for academic operations and assessment, explained how students are tracked when it comes to graduation rates.

“When looking at graduation rates, [Academic Operations and Assessment] looks at a particular group in order to get the most accurate records,” Frizado said. “We look at first-time, full-time freshman – no transfer students or students who bring in credits out of high school.”

Academic Operations looks at these students and records how long it takes for them to graduate in either four, five or six years.

These metrics help make the results more fair, Frizado said.

“On a four-year average, about 40 percent of women graduate and 25 to 29 percent will graduate,” said Rachel Schaeffer, director of transfer evaluation and graduation at the University.

For students on a longer graduation track, Schaeffer said the graduation rate over a six-year period increases to 64 percent of women and 57 percent of men.

Two major aspects which play into graduation rates are whether mandatory classes are available to students and the amount of degrees handed out at graduation.

“Multiple factors play into degrees being conferred, such as course availability and how many students allowed in a class,” Frizado said. “What you would see is the four-year graduation go down and the five-year go up.”

Students may not finish or end up transferring out of the University, which may help explain why some programs struggle with retention rates.

These are all trends being researched by the Office of Registration and Records, Division of Enrollment Management and the Division of Student Affairs, Schaeffer said.

“When students leave, we aren’t sure why or where they’re going after,” Schaeffer said. “Did they go somewhere else? Are they not sure of the resources offered? There are a variety of reasons, such as economy or money.”

Alex Solis, USG president, said retention is one of his top priorities, emphasizing the value of student involvement on and off campus.

“This could include student organizations, student affairs, academics and resources all over campus,” Solis said.

Transfer Evaluation and Graduation and other departments are trying to make all of these resources more known among students, Schaeffer said.

“We want to make students aware of these things so students stay and graduate at the University,” Schaeffer said. “We want to offer better options for students.”

Students are contacted by the Student Enrollment Call Center to ask why they decided to leave the University, whether by dropping out or transferring.

Christopher Cox, with university registrar, explained a few options Office of Registration and Records plan on enabling for students.

“There is currently a committee comprised of faculty and administrators reviewing the Undergraduate Policies to identify policies that appear to be overly punitive and create an unnecessary barrier to retention and graduation,” Cox said.

One new policy allows students to transfer courses to the University while they were away during times of academic difficulty, Cox said.

Before this, a student needed a GPA of at least 2.0 to be considered academically eligible to transfer courses to the University.

The University is also creating an advising plan in order to better assist students, while the Ohio Board of Regents is working to allow students to easily transfer courses between institutions, Cox said.

“This allows students to graduate more easily and in a more timely manner,” Cox said.