Graduation rates: some colleges don’t make the grade

    A new report from the American Enterprise Institute of more than 1,300 colleges and universities shows that even at schools with similar admissions criteria, graduation rates vary widely.

    Across the nation students are donning caps and gowns and heading to graduation ceremonies. A new report from the American Enterprise Institute of more than 1,300 colleges and universities shows that even at schools with similar admissions criteria, graduation rates vary widely. (Photo: Flickr/dstrelau)

    Listen:

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    At the top of the list for the Philadelphia area, Haverford, Swarthmore, and the University of Pennsylvania all have graduation rates over 90 percent. On the flip side Delaware Valley College, York College, and Lincoln University, have graduation rates of 50 percent or less.

    Gwynedd-Mercy, an area Catholic college, clocks in with a 77-percent graduation rate.

    Jim Abbuhl is Vice President for Enrollment Management. He says Gwynedd-Mercy is working to improve that number. Part of that plan includes a program called “First Year Experience” where a faculty member is matched with incoming freshmen.

    Abbuhl: That faculty member becomes their faculty mentor for them. Not only to talk about academics but at times within that class they might talk about time management, study skills, for many of those students making a transition to living on campus and living away from home for the first time.

    Abbuhl says the fall semester of the program is held in a classroom, but for the spring semester freshmen do community service projects.

    Keeping students in school — in the Philadelphia area — is the mission of Campus Philly, a non-profit group that works with area colleges and universities to try to attract domestic and international students, and connect them with internships and job opportunities.

    Senior Director Melanie Rago says it’s important to keep students engaged with the campus community and provide academic support like a writing center or tutoring.

    Rago: You go to a college campus for a tour and you might hear them talk about classroom size. And part of it has to do with if you have a clasroom size of 30 and under, then that faculty person is more likely able to give individualized attention and support where needed.

    Another support mechanism to keep kids going to class….is fun. Again, Melanie Rago.

    Rago: Different clubs and organizations and social activities. From an outside perspective that might seem like frills but it really is integral to the success of students at a college or university.

    Schneider: We spend an awful lot of time getting kids you know ready to graduate from high school. And then all of the sudden we say, okay congratulations, go to college.

    Mark Schneider is co-author of the report. He says graduation numbers need to be readily available to parents, students, and guidance counselors so they can make good choices before kids pick a school.

    Schneider: We never think about the next step which is hey you can get into a range of schools – this is your GPA this is your SATs or your ACTs. And then we send them to a school where the chances of you graduating with your credentials are three times higher or four times higher in one school as compared to another.

    Schneider says it’s difficult to tell how the economic downturn, could change student populations and graduation rates.

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