From mLive comes “Lack of academic advising costing college students time and money.” It is mostly about the conditions on the ground at Central Michigan University, but it could just as easily be about EMU. A few paragraphs:
Twelve of Michigan’s 15 public universities have four-year graduation rates lower than the national average, and that extra time on campus is costly to students, families, and the Michigan economy.
A majority of college students don’t earn a four-year degree in four years. Some switch majors or work part- or full-time. Others are enrolled in programs, such as engineering or education at some colleges, that are structured to take five years. But more should graduate on time, said Charlie Nutt, executive director of the National Academic Advising Association.
One reason cited for the low on-time graduation rates: inadequate academic counseling.
Counseling is critical for students who are making the huge adjustment from high school to college. “(Students) underestimate the amount of time it takes compared to a high school class,” Nutt said. “It’s a different type of preparation that they’re not prepared for.”
“There’s no question that in some cases, students don’t get the counseling,” said Patrick Callan, president of the National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education. “Proper counseling keeps them taking the course that keeps them on a steady path towards graduation. Budget crunches, however, cut back on that (counseling) staff.”
Sure, we could/should probably have more advisors, but I also think there are two things that places like EMU could do right now to help the situation. First, require students to see an advisor throughout their college careers– say once a year. And by “require,” I mean they physically have to go speak to someone who is authorized as an advisor and to get some kind of approval/signature before they are able to register for anymore classes. Second, faculty should do what is already contractually mandated and advise students on a regular basis. In other words, we don’t need to hire more advisors necessarily; we need to have more people who are already here doing some advising.
EMU is not likely to do either of these things. I think the powers that be are afraid of doing anything that might delay students from registering for classes (and paying those all-important tuition dollars), and making students do something other than self-advising would do that. If I were super-cynical, I’d also guess that EMU actually kind of likes it when students take classes they don’t need because that’s extra tuition dollars. As far as faculty advising goes: in my experience, too many faculty pass off that work because they claim they don’t know enough to tell students what classes to take when. That strikes me as silly. Besides the fact that basic advising isn’t rocket science, there’s always asking others for the right answer.
Also in mLive is another story along these lines, “Tuition incentives pay off for students graduating in four years.” This one is mostly about Grand Valley State, which has doubled its graduation rate since 1990. Here’s a quote with an interesting info-graphic:
Twelve of Michigan’s 15 public universities have four-year graduation rates below the national average of 31 percent; at nine public universities, one in five students or fewer earn a four-year degree in four years.
Many go on to graduate following a fifth or sixth year, but those extra semesters are costly to students, parents and the state’s economy. “Should we accept a 20 percent grad rate over four years?” asked Blue. “Heck no. Not as a parent or a taxpayer.”
All good points, but one of the things for me with this chart is there is a correlation between test scores and the selectivity of the institution and the graduation rate of its students. Now, I’m not saying that a place like EMU ought to turn students away; I value the mission we have for extending access to higher education to those who wouldn’t have it if the only choices were the more elite institutions. But we also have to recognize that one of the impacts of that is we’ll never have the graduation rates of places like U of M.
At the same time, it probably wouldn’t be a bad idea for folks at EMU to study what’s going on at Grand Valley State, an institution not completely different from us. According to this chart, their six year graduation rate is 66%, while ours is 37%. Clearly there are lessons EMU could learn.