In Texas, University’s Success Is Not All About Graduation Rates
Gee, what a shocker that the president of a university with a miserable graduation rate would try to downplay the importance of this measure…
March 2, 2012, 5:48 am
In Texas, University's Success Is Not All About Graduation RatesBy TANYA CALDWELL
There are many factors that make a university attractive to prospective students: its reputation, its location, its academic rigor.
A college's graduation rate, however, shouldn't be one of those factors, according to Diana Natalicio, the president of the University of Texas at El Paso. Our colleagues at the Texas Tribune have published the first of a four-part series on lagging graduation rates at public institutions in Texas.
(Ms. Natalicio) eschews commonly accepted higher-education measures like graduation rates, which show that just one out of 10 freshmen entering UTEP graduate within four years. She said UTEP, which has more than 18,000 undergraduate students and accepts nearly 97 percent of its applicants, aimed to demonstrate that a university "could actually achieve both access and excellence."
The highest four-year graduation rate at a public Texas university is 53 percent at the University of Texas at Austin, hardly boast-worthy. In a nod to the growing span of the typical college experience, the six-year graduation rate has become the standard in higher-education measures. In Texas, it is roughly 49 percent, which ranks 17th in the country, according to the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board. At UTEP, just 35 percent of students have graduated after six years; only 46 percent get their degrees in a decade.
Critics say UTEP and other Texas universities are failing in their core responsibility of graduating students, although the state's completion crisis is far from the worst. But with predictions that more than 60 percent of the nation's jobs will require a higher-education credential in 2020, the same critics say that Texas' public universities are lagging in their mission to prepare the state work force for the future, potentially creating major economic implications.
Ms. Natalicio said the university is working on improvements. But she questions whether the statistics accurately reflect the success of an institution serving a majority-minority community made up mostly of students who historically might not have been able to pursue higher education.
You may read the full report here.