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Wildcat

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One of the unis I've attended had a similar set up. What it was was that, basically, almost any in-state student could GET in, but they didn't necessarily keep them. Most of the departments had a fairly difficult leveling sequence required early in the major, and as a result, a lot of students either discovered they had to do fairly major remediation before they were ready to enter the major, which wasn't offered on the main campus, but was on the 2 year satellite campuses that were essentially community colleges (which required transferring to a 2 year campus), changed majors to something less difficult, or just plain didn't graduate in 6 years. The school also had a lot of part-time adult students, and many of those students didn't graduate in 6 years because they were trying to juggle college coursework and a full time job and often children of their own.

 

It was a good school, and a good program, and the employment rate for their graduates was high. But the university's stats as a whole weren't wonderful.

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It means kids either drop out, or can't get the classes they need to graduate on time. If it is a public school, I'd worry about the latter - it can be a real problem.

 

Ask the folks in the department what their grad. rate is compared to the whole college - and how do they help make sure students get the classes they need to get through in four years.

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It means kids either drop out, or can't get the classes they need to graduate on time. If it is a public school, I'd worry about the latter - it can be a real problem.

 

Ask the folks in the department what their grad. rate is compared to the whole college - and how do they help make sure students get the classes they need to get through in four years.

 

This.

 

Talk to students and faculty in the department your DD is interested in and ask specifically whether it is possible for them to get into courses on schedule.

 

A low graduation rate can also mean that the school accepts students who do not possess the necessary aptitude for their subject. I would expect a STEM school to have lower graduation rates than a LAC.

If only 73% are retained from first to second year, this could mean a lack of support for Freshmen, or hard weedout courses in the first year, (probably in math and science).

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Lots of good advice. I would look carefully at the freshman experience - are the classes gigantic? is it difficult to get needed classes? are students engaged on campus? The research suggests that if you look at individuals and try to predict who will drop out one of the biggest factors is level of engagement on campus. Does the student have friends? Are they involved in any campus organizations? Do they go to campus events?

 

I also encourage families to always ask about academic advising. Who does academic advising and what is their training? How often do students see advisers? Some schools have professionals, typically masters in counseling level, trained to do academic advising and students are assigned an adviser who gets to know them. Some colleges on advising to professor's other responsibilities and don't necessarily provide a lot of training. Other schools don't assign specific advisers so the students may just need to wait in line at their college (such as Arts and Sciences) and see whatever random person happens to be there in order to get their hold removed from their account so they can register. There may not be continuity or good advice.

 

Bad advising is not reason to rule out a school entirely, but for me it would be a good heads up as a parent that you should make it clear ahead of time that your student really needs to take personal responsibility to carefully plan and that you expect them to graduate in four years. Most colleges have some kind of online tracking system students can check to make sure they are meeting their requirements for general education and their major. Even with good advising at a big school, student really do need to be on top of making sure they have a clear plan to get what they want from their education and still graduate on time. I don't see this as a reason to rule out a school at all, but too many families just assume the college is going to take care of it and their kid will be on track to graduate. That can be a costly assumption. While students have privacy rights through FERPA, I personally have no problem with a parent setting the expectation that if they are paying, they expect to sit down once a semester with their student and look at the online account and see how they are doing with graduation requirements. I don't think it is helicoptering to keep that much of a hand in the process when it is such a huge investment.

 

ETA: This is kind of obvious, but I would also encourage your daughter to ask everyone she talks to - admissions and faculty about the low retention rate of freshman. Why do they think it is so low? Is the university concerned about it and what if anything is being done.

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Great advice, Ladies. I will keep these questions in mind as DS chooses a school. He is our first to graduate.

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I served for 14 years as a trustee of a small public university with a low graduation rate. All of the other posters have raised very good points, and they are all things you should look into. I will add the number one reason that our graduation rate was low: we served an extremely high percentage of first generation college students, and well more than half of our student population came from homes who had a $0 Estimated Family Contribution from the FAFSA.

 

Students who are on the edge with family support--both financial and cultural/emotional, often have problems persisting in higher ed. It doesn't mean they will never graduate, nor does it mean they somehow "bring down" the quality of the school's offerings. Their path may look very different from the traditional "go away to school for four years and graduate" kind of path.

 

If your school's student body resembles the university I served, look into the supports that are in place for keeping these kids in school. A school should be addressing the special needs of this group through residence life, student affairs, wellness services and academic counseling that does not take a "sink or swim" approach. Also check into honors programming so that a motivated student can find a like-minded cohort. If these supports are in place (plus all of the other issues have checked out), I would not let the graduation rate stop me from attending.

 

A good student can really run with the opportunities that a school like this affords. Being a leader on campus can be an invaluable experience for the right student.

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As an aside, the gov't just released some scorecard for the unis, so I looked at the ones in our state... a local uni highly regarded for its engineer grads 'only' has a 46% grad rate, so I was FLOORED to see that!! I thought it would have been higher.

 

With engineering, look at the five year rate and look at the incoming math proficiency level. Many students have to repeat courses, which extends their time. Also find out the number who are in a co-op program.

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a local uni highly regarded for its engineer grads 'only' has a 46% grad rate, so I was FLOORED to see that!! I thought it would have been higher. I know there is no problem getting classes, etc. I wonder if the recession/lack of scholarship/funding has to do with the lower rate, as well. If students have a hard time getting money to pay, or have to go part time while working full time (common at our local uni) it would stretch out the time to graduate.

 

 

I would actually expect that for a school with a heavy focus on engineering.

1. Many students come with a lack of math/science preparation, which means that they may have to spend several semesters taking remedial math courses if they are not ready to begin with calculus; this delays their science sequence, and so on.

2. The classes are hard, and some students have not yet acquired the necessary work ethic; each semester, about 25% of our students have to repeat the introductory engineering physics course - usually because they did not put in enough time and effort.

3. Many student spend one or multiple semesters doing a coop; this delays their course sequence.

4. Some recognize recognize that they may not be cut out to be an engineer, but often not until they have been floundering for a few years. It is not possible to "fake" it through an engineering degree if you don't have the aptitude, whereas for some other degrees a student can still hang in and at least graduate.

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Oldest dd's alma mater, Hillsdale, used to have a really low retention rate. They finally figured out that they were taking kids in who couldn't cut it. So, in one year, they raised their admitted ACT score by about 5 points. That solved it. The kids who got in could cut the 6 hour required Freshman Rhetoric & Great Books core, unlike previous years. The cutoff score for Honors went from 30 to 32 and retention numbers in Honors also rose.

 

Our local uni is now heavily focused on Outdoor Rec and Exercise Sports Science. Let's just say, many of those kids are not academic superstars. Their graduation rate is not high... For those kids wanting to do the work, they do well, but the motto of the school IS "Ski W*** State and get a degree in your spare time!"

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