HomeLatest ThreadsGreatest ThreadsForums & GroupsMy SubscriptionsMy Posts
DU Home » Latest Threads » Forums & Groups » Main » Editorials & Other Articles (Forum) » The curious math of colle...

Sun Apr 14, 2019, 09:57 PM

The curious math of college graduation rates

Colleges and universities that award bachelor’s degrees are widely known as four-year institutions. The term stems from the long-standing expectation that the average student can earn a baccalaureate within that amount of time.

But for a variety of reasons, many students take far longer -- something that’s reflected in the way the U.S. Department of Education calculates graduation rates (GR).

The federal government primarily reports six-graduation rates. It calculates “the total number of completers within 150-percent of normal time divided by the GR adjusted cohort.”

Put simply, it takes the total number of full-time, first-time students who enroll at a school in the fall and calculates how many of them earn a degree within six years. By definition, the rate isn’t normal.

https://www.sandiegouniontribune.com/news/education/story/2019-04-12/the-curious-math-of-college-graduation-rates

8 replies, 932 views

Reply to this thread

Back to top Alert abuse

Always highlight: 10 newest replies | Replies posted after I mark a forum
Replies to this discussion thread

Response to Zorro (Original post)

Sun Apr 14, 2019, 10:47 PM

1. Nothing curious except the writer

The writer is trying to make a big deal out of the SIX-year graduation being reported for what are typically thought of as FOUR-year programs. Even the writer admits at the end of the article that the four-year graduation rates are reported, too. (That is in paragraph five.)

It takes both the 4- and 6- numbers to understand academic progression. The six-year data includes those in curriculums requiring extra semesters (some engineering, pharmaceutical, accounting, etc.) and for students whose studies were interrupted by travel, illness, or financial reasons.

These kinds of articles are usually being pushed by RW groups opposed to liberal arts educations.

Reply to this post

Back to top Alert abuse Link here Permalink


Response to unc70 (Reply #1)

Sun Apr 14, 2019, 10:58 PM

2. I was surprised in the '90s to see 5-year graduation rates being reported.

They weren't reported because of programs that required 5 years. In fact, the school I was at if you took what had been considered a full load for 4 years you'd lose credits early in year 5 because they had a maximum credit amount you could take before you started losing the first credits you took. (It worked for engineering if you viewed it as a window and were a late-comer to the engineering program, which was highly prescriptive as to courses.)

They were mostly reported for students who worked or who couldn't handle the traditional load. For the same reason, they lowered what "full time" was for financial aid purposes, as well, to 12 credits, even as they increased the credits per course to 4.

In the late '70s/early '80s 5 courses were considered full time for me. At some point that became 12 credits, but still 4 courses. By '98 or so, it was pretty much 3 courses. In return, it was fine if students took longer. They justified it by saying students were working more--which sounded good, but if you looked at the stats that didn't hold for most of them. Many of them just had trouble not dropping out with a full course load or, worse yet, had so many remedial courses or repeated courses to expunge Fs that they needed 5, then 6, years.

But, of course, some were working more, and other had a year abroad to add to the time to degree. It's just that the administration focused so much on workers and year-abroaders that the impression was (intentionally) given that they were the norm and not the excuse, while those who simply needed more time were the outliers and not the norm.

Reply to this post

Back to top Alert abuse Link here Permalink


Response to Igel (Reply #2)

Mon Apr 15, 2019, 02:40 AM

6. My engineering program in the 80s

Is substantially the same as my daughter's in the 2010s. I don't know if the other majors are different. Getting done in 4 years is definitely possible. My daughter did in two (she did her first two years in high school by exercising my evil plan). I essentially did mine in three years. My daughter did not work during the school year, but did have internships during the summer. Her first summer she also did her high school job at reduced hours. Her husband finished in four years even with a major change from Business to Engineering. He also worked during the academic year. My daughter turned 23 in January, and she will have five years vestment in May with her employer.

Reply to this post

Back to top Alert abuse Link here Permalink


Response to Zorro (Original post)

Sun Apr 14, 2019, 11:00 PM

3. Faced with high costs, crowding and confusion, college students struggle to earn a degree in 4 years

How many years should it take to earn a bachelor’s degree? Four? Five? Six?

At Cal State San Marcos, students say four. But few of the roughly 4,100 people who’ll receive their baccalaureate next month did it that quickly. The school’s data indicates it’ll be less than 20 percent.

Don’t think of them as outliers or laggards, because they’re not.

Lost in the pomp and circumstance of commencement season is a hard fact: Students everywhere are struggling to “finish in four,” the historic ideal for degree-seekers. It’s a key reason why colleges aren’t producing enough graduates. Analysts say California could be shy 1.1 million baccalaureates by 2030, a shortage that could stunt the economy and reduce home ownership.

https://www.sandiegouniontribune.com/news/education/story/2019-04-13/faced-with-high-costs-crowding-and-confusion-college-students-struggle-to-earn-a-degree-in-four-years

Reply to this post

Back to top Alert abuse Link here Permalink


Response to Zorro (Original post)

Sun Apr 14, 2019, 11:45 PM

4. The 4, 5, and 6-year rates were reported in the past

During the 1960s and early 1970s, there was a large cohort whose education was interrupted by Vietnam. Those who came back to school often took even more than six years to graduate. I took more than your because we were on strike following Kent State and Jackson State. I received several incomplete that semester including one that I was never able to resolve; the professor left the University during the chaos and would not respond. I finally took another course.

I don't know the motivation behind this article, but it reminds me of the RW anti education crowd here in N.C.

I know about past graduation rates because I did research in the field back in the day.

Reply to this post

Back to top Alert abuse Link here Permalink


Response to Zorro (Original post)

Mon Apr 15, 2019, 12:12 AM

5. What the others have said.

I've been aware of six year graduation rates being reported for some decades now.

I do think full time students taking only 12 hours is a huge factor. When I first started college in 1965 the typical full time student took 16-18 hours.

I don't know if students are really working more than they used to, but that may well be the case, and if so it's going to be a huge factor in taking longer to graduate, if those students are working more than 20 hours a week.

Reply to this post

Back to top Alert abuse Link here Permalink


Response to Zorro (Original post)

Mon Apr 15, 2019, 02:45 AM

7. Many colleges have four year guarantees

If you take your courses in sequence, they will always be available to you. The problem in smaller programs is one slip can drop you back a year since many majors have a six or even seven semester critical path.

Reply to this post

Back to top Alert abuse Link here Permalink


Response to Zorro (Original post)

Mon Apr 15, 2019, 10:37 AM

8. There are a lot of reasons why students do not graduate in four years.

One of the big ones is many students change majors or wait too long to decide on a major to finish in four years. For many degrees in science and engineering, the prerequisites are taken during the first and second years and then the heavy duty courses of the major are taken during the third and fourth years. If a student radically changes a major after the first or second year, they may have to take a lot of prerequisites which is going to add to the total time spent on coursework. Also many engineering degrees require taking an overload nearly every semester and/or taking summer courses to finish in four years. If a student has to work during the school year and summers, this is can be difficult to do.

Reply to this post

Back to top Alert abuse Link here Permalink

Reply to this thread