Forum on graduation rates encourages student input

Andrew Messamore

[Updated on Sep. 28 at 12:58 a.m., corrected graduation percentages]

In order to obtain student input for the task force working to increase the four-year graduation rate, the Liberal Arts Council and Senate of College Councils hosted an open forum at the University Teaching Center on Tuesday evening.

Using discussions and various polls of those who attended, the videotaped forum invited students to offer their opinions on what should be done to raise the four-year graduation rate, currently at 52 percent, to associate dean Marc Musick and dean Randy Diehl, the task force chair.

“Student support is imperative for increasing four-year graduation rates,” Diehl said. “Any successful initiative begins with listening, and that’s what this forum is about. I hope students will share their ideas about what motivates them to achieve a four-year degree and the barriers that may be standing in their way.”

Several topics were discussed at the event, particularly how to balance the ‘cultivation of the mind’ desired by President William Powers Jr. in reaching the four-year goal. Some were surprised, then, when many of the activities often associated with more time spent in college correlated with earlier graduation, such as the fact that students who studied abroad were statistically seven times more likely to graduate in four years, Diehl said.

“A lot of what they were talking about was about being innovative, and I’m really interested in getting a follow up of Musick’s research,” said international relations sophomore Kolby Lee. “What stood out to me was the correlation between study abroad and less time spent in college.”

The task force, which has been meeting twice a week since the summer, is composed of 10 faculty members from various colleges and five student representatives. Up until this point, the task force has been meeting with expert witnesses and student leaders to obtain a better understanding of the problem of graduation, Diehl said.

Ultimately, the task force hopes to develop a plan that will work for Powers’ goal to have an 70 percent four-year graduation rate in five years, Diehl said. The deadline for their proposal is currently set for December.

“The conclusions are that students that are integrated in their university socially and academically will do better,” Musick said. “What we want to do is change people’s minds about how they view the campus.”