Task force sets out to improve four-year graduation rate

Liz Farmer

High school students who are less prepared for college tend to add to an already low four-year graduation rate, according to a recent study by a UT professor.

Fifty-one percent of UT students graduate in four years and to increase the rate, President William Powers Jr. assembled a task force in July. The study’s author, sociology professor and associate dean Marc Musick, said in an interview last week that improvements in graduation efficiency are not only helpful to the state and the University but to students as well.

“I think it’s important for students to know that the longer they stay, the more it costs them,” Musick said.

Median SAT scores of UT students is 1165, compared to 1217 for the top 50 public research universities, according to the study. The low SAT score could show that coming out of high schools, these students were unprepared for the rigorous University workload. Only 44 percent of Texas high school graduates in 2008 were college-ready, according to the Texas Education Agency’s Academic Excellence Indicator System.

Musick said he wants more students to start at UT with their four-year graduation date in mind. He said increasing the percentage of students who graduate in four years would allow the University to admit more students. Musick said when students work their way through school or has an opportunity to do research for an extra semester, like he did, can also keep a student from graduating in four years.

Emily Van Duyn, vice president of Senate of College Councils, said she was surprised by the SAT-related results of the study, but she also said she is optimistic.

“I am of the sentiment that students’ ability is not totally illustrated by their SAT scores,” Van Duyn said.

She said college preparedness isn’t enough for students entering UT because of the exceptional workload.

“UT is of a high caliber. Not that other institutions aren’t, but we have higher expectations here,” Van Duyn said.

She said the task force should consider improvements like the Senate of College Council’s “Ready, Set, Go” program which is offered to high school students who may be first generation college students.

“We provide resources for underrepresented students,” Van Duyn said. “It provides life skills and tools for students and parents.”