Showing posts with label graduation rate. Show all posts
Showing posts with label graduation rate. Show all posts

Wednesday, August 08, 2012

Brogan's FAU record disqualifies him from criticizing FAMU's grad rate

Frank Brogan led Florida Atlantic University (FAU) for six years and never pulled the six year graduation rate above 39.4 percent. He now seems to think that his record at FAU somehow qualifies him to be a leading critic of FAMU's current 39.3 percent six-year graduation rate.

Brogan, who is now the chancellor of the State University System of Florida (SUS), was back at it in yesterday's Orlando Sentinel. The newspaper ran a story entitled: "Brogan to FAMU: Cut number of low-performing students."

Denise-Marie Ordway, the article's author, declined to tell her readers about Brogan's graduation rate record at FAU.

Ordway also failed to mention that FAU and Florida International University (FIU) barely graduate more students than FAMU in six years despite the fact that they only admit a very small number of students who don't meet the SUS's standard admissions requirements. FAU and FIU's six-year graduation rates were both 41 percent in 2010-2011.

That information is in the SUS records, but Orlando Sentinel reporters like Ordway still refuse to acknowledge it. They would rather ignore those facts in order to print more slanted articles against FAMU. Highlighting comparative information about Brogan's FAU record and FAMU's ability to keep pace with FAU and FIU's graduation rates would undercut the biased news coverage.

Monday, July 23, 2012

FAMU's grad rate neck-and-neck with FAU and FIU's despite its profile admit rate

The Orlando Sentinel, following the lead of the Florida Board of Governors, is dedicating lots of attention to FAMU's six-year graduation rate, which was 39 percent in 2010-2011. Its attempts to link this to so-called "unprepared" students doesn't add up when the six-year graduation rate at FAMU is compared to that of Florida Atlantic University (FAU) and Florida International University (FIU).

FAU and FIU's six-year graduation rates were both 41 percent in 2010-2011. Those two universities barely graduate more students than FAMU in six years despite the fact that they only admit a very small number of students who don't meet the State University System of Florida's (SUS) standard admissions requirements.

"FAMU's four-year graduation rate is a dismal 12 percent; its six-year rate is 39 percent — the state's lowest," the Orlando Sentinel editorial board wrote. "That owes, in part, to [former President James H.] Ammons' insistence on admitting applicants who are unprepared for college rigor. Students who flunk out or graduate with the state's highest debt loads."

An article by Sentinel reporter Denise-Marie Balona suggested that FAMU’s decision to admit a large number of students through the profile assessment process is a major reason that its six-year graduation rate isn’t higher.

"In recent years, FAMU has opened its doors to a skyrocketing number of students who did not meet the most basic admissions criteria," Balona wrote. "Over the past several years, FAMU has hiked up its percentage of so-called "profile admits," students whose grades or SAT scores fell short, who did not take enough math in high school or who failed to meet other requirements."

Friday, July 06, 2012

HBCU Digest rips Orlando Sentinel's coverage of FAMU's graduation rate

Editorial board members and reporters at the Orlando Sentinel have bombarded their newspaper’s pages in recent months with slanted headlines about FAMU. The sensationalized “news” coverage has many historically black college and university (HBCU) supporters across the nation fuming.

From the HBCU Digest:

The Orlando Sentinel this week continued its media framing assault on Florida A&M University, recently publishing a piece on FAMU’s graduation rates. Hovering around 12-percent four-year undergraduate completion rate for incoming freshmen, and a 39-percent tick for those completing in six years, the article wastes no time in giving the reader the usual higher ed porn found in HBCU stories – students leave saddled with debt and no degree to show for it.

Here’s the truth about historically black colleges and universities’ graduation rates, a truth that anyone with cultural and racial sensibility can appreciate. HBCUs admit and graduate the students that most four-year institutions won’t consider for enrollment. There are casualties. Many of them. But giving low-income, high academic-risk students a chance to go to college is the most socially responsible thing to make those students the primary advocate for change in their lives, and the lives of their families.

Thursday, July 05, 2012

Graduation rate for Class of 2014 will be big test for Ammons

FAMU's six-year graduation rate has attracted lots of news coverage, lately. FAMU President James H. Ammons' administration has taken a number of steps to help students earn their baccalaureate degrees more quickly. But there won’t be enough data to fully evaluate the success of this work until two years from now.

Ammons' first day as president was July 2, 2007. He recruited the freshman class that enrolled in Fall 2008. Their six-year graduation rate success won’t be known until the Spring of 2014.

The six classes that have reached the six-year point since Ammons took the top job were recruited by previous presidents.

Tuesday, July 03, 2012

Studies: Students who want bachelor’s degrees do best when they start at four-year colleges

On June 20, 2012, Board of Governors (BOG) member Norman Tripp asked FAMU President James Ammons why he doesn't send more of the university's applicants to two-year colleges rather than admitting them as through the "profile assessment" process.

The guidelines for the profile assessment process are outlined in BOG Regulation 6.002, which states: "Applicants who are not eligible for standard admissions may be considered for alternative admission. In addition to reviewing a student’s GPA and test scores, a university may consider other factors in the review of the student’s application for admission."

FAMU currently has the highest number of "profile admits" in the State University System of Florida.

"Why aren’t you directing [profile admits] to what was a community college or state college to get prepared to come to FAMU?" Tripp asked Ammons. "It’s cheaper. The purpose of the 2 + 2 system was to take those students who are obviously not prepared to do your work and to get them prepared."

Ammons answered by emphasizing that the "four-year college experience" FAMU offers is important to the success of the students the university serves as part of its historical mission. A 2007 study published in the Teachers College Record of Columbia University backs up Ammons' position.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

FAMU should be able to expand doctoral programs despite graduation rate, just like FAU

Yesterday, a number of members of the Florida Board of Governors (BOG) attacked FAMU’s doctoral program ambitions with a lame argument that didn’t stop Florida Atlantic University’s (FAU) doctoral expansion efforts.

According to the Orlando Sentinel: “Some members of the Board of Governors suggested to FAMU President James Ammons that he focus on helping undergraduate students get through school before he continues expanding FAMU's graduate and doctoral programs.”

FAMU currently has a 39.3 percent six-year graduation rate.

Frank Brogan, the current chancellor of the State University System of Florida (SUS), served as the president of FAU from 2003 until 2009. The university’s six-year graduation remained below 40 percent during his entire presidency. But that didn’t stop him from aggressively expanding FAU’s research programs and building the foundation for the university’s current medical school.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Financial aid, advising, and housing key to FAMU's graduation rate strategy

For the past three years, FAMU's lower division students (those with fewer than 60 credit hours) have taken higher course loads than their peers at the University of Florida. This has set FAMU on the right path for a higher six-year graduation rate.

This important step forward did not happen by accident. It is the result of a carefully crafted strategy for making college more affordable for FAMU's students. FAMU's Divisions of University Relations, Student Affairs, Administrative and Financial Services, and Academic Affairs have all played very important roles in this process.

Fee breaks and more generous financial aid to encourage higher course loads

President James H. Ammons' administration has beefed up scholarships and rolled out bigger fee breaks to help students obtain more money for classes.

A big part of the increase in scholarship money has come from the Division of University Relations' ongoing efforts to rebuild the Industry Cluster, a major source of private giving. Alumni donations to the university foundation have also sharply risen since Ammons was appointed president.

The Division of Administrative and Financial Services also recommended new out-of-state fee breaks to the Board of Trustees (BOT). These fee breaks, which the BOT approved, are part of the university's efforts to help these students boost their course loads. FAMU awarded $2.7M in out-state-breaks in 2009-2010. That climbed to $3.8M in 2010-2011.

In 2009-2010, Chief Financial Officer Teresa Hardee and then-Student Body President Gallop Franklin, II successfully persuaded the BOT to waive the seven percent differential tuition increase for students who qualify for the need-based Florida Public Student Assistance Grant (FPSAG). That meant that FPSAG recipients only faced the mandatory six percent tuition hike required by the legislature, instead the total 15 percent increase placed on the majority of FAMU students.

These fee breaks and scholarships were complemented by U.S. President Barack Obama's leadership in increasing Pell Grant awards. The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 boosted the maximum Pell Grant award by $500 to $5,350 for 2009-2010. The maximum award went up to $5,550 in 2010-2011 as a result of additional funds from the College Cost Reduction and Access Act.

Stronger advising and the expansion of on-campus housing

FAMU is working to maintain its success in boosting student course loads with additional initiatives that will save students money.

The Division of Academic Affairs led by Provost Cynthia Hughes-Harris has made more academic advisors available on campus and stepped up its requirement for students to meet with them on a regular basis. This helps prevent students from taking unnecessary courses that cost them lots of cash and slow down their path to graduation.

For example, FAMU is beginning to require most freshmen admitted through the profile assessment process to enroll in summer classes immediately after high school graduation. These students are being giving specialized advising during the summer months.

The Divisions of Student Affairs and Administrative and Financial Services are also working hard to expand on-campus housing. The university recently reopened Sampson & Young Halls, which added 208 beds and brought to total number up to 2,692. FAMU’s next priority is to complete its brand new Polkinghorne Village by 2013. That will add 800 more beds to campus and bring the total up to 3,492.

Former Vice-President of Student Affairs Roland H. Gaines and current Vice-President for Student Affairs William E. Hudson, Jr. have both stated that the expansion of on-campus housing will help improve FAMU’s six-year graduation rate. Campus housing rental rates are usually much cheaper than private-owned apartments. Students also save money by using campus meal plans and walking to class instead of driving. That leaves them with more dollars to spend on courses.

Monday, October 24, 2011

FAMU’s freshmen, sophomores taking higher course loads than UF’s

Ammons has pulled FAMU back from the course load cliff

President James H. Ammons’ administration has reversed FAMU’s ten-year slump in lower division course load averages. Not only are course loads up, but FAMU’s lower division students (those with fewer than 60 credit hours) are now taking higher course loads than their peers at the University of Florida.

The increase in freshman and sophomore course loads at FAMU is important because it illustrates that the university is successfully addressing a key problem that prevents many of its students from graduating in a timely manner. FAMU’s housing shortage makes college very expensive for the student body. Most students come from families that make $30,000 or less per year. Students typically reduce their course loads as the cost of college goes up. That hurts the university's retention and graduation rates.

The average family income of UF freshmen is $105,000. It’s easy for most UF students to call their parents and get extra money for rent, car gas, and food when prices go up. The majority of FAMU students can’t do that. But under Ammons, FAMU has taken a number of important steps to reduce the cost of college for its students (which Rattler Nation will detail in tomorrow's lead story).

FAMU requires a minimum of 120 credit hours for a baccalaureate degree. Students need to take an average of 15 credit hours each fall and spring in order to meet that benchmark in four years.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Ammons: FAMU priced out-of-state students out of an education

At the June 1 Board of Trustees meeting, President James Ammons admitted that FAMU took a giant step backwards years ago when it decided to raise its out-of-state tuition rate well above what most non-Florida students can afford.

“We have priced our out-of-state students out of an education,” Ammons told the trustees. “There was a time when our out-of-state tuition was lower than in-state tuition in many states.”

Ammons further explained that many out-of-state students have a hard time paying for school because they come from low-income backgrounds.

“Many come here for one year and then have to leave,” Ammons said.

Most FAMU students come from households that make $30,000 or less per year.

FAMU gives freshmen first priority in campus housing. However, the university only has enough beds for about 21 percent of its student body. After their first year, most out-of-state students struggle to pay for the high cost of off-campus in addition to the rising price of tuition. That forces many of them to either reduce their course loads or drop-out of college.

As part of an effort to increase FAMU’s graduation and retention rates, Ammons recently announced that he plans to grant $3.8M in tuition waivers to out-of-state students next year. He hopes the waivers will give returning out-of-state students more money to buy larger numbers of credit hours and complete their degrees more quickly.

However, tuition will increase by eight percent for new out-of-state students.

Besides hurting the graduation rate, out-of-state tuition increases have also placed a strain on the university’s athletic recruitment budget. The more that out-of-state tuition rises, the more it costs for FAMU to provide scholarships for out-of-state student-athletes.

FAMU’s out-of-state student numbers continue to get smaller as the tuition price gets bigger.

Back in Fall 2000, when the average price for out-of-state full time enrollment was $8,542, FAMU had 3,065 out-of-state students (25.20 percent of the student body). In Fall 2009, when the average price for out-of-state full time enrollment was $14,030, FAMU only brought in 1,793 out-of-state students (14.6 percent of the student body).

Monday, June 14, 2010

Most SUS institutions have 6-year grad rates below 50%


FAMU aims for 49.7 percent six- year graduation rate by 2020.

In 2008, seven of the 11 State University System of Florida institutions graduated fewer than half of their students in six years. The average six-year graduation rate for the entire system was 53.1 percent.

The University of Florida led overall with 82 percent. FAMU had 41 percent. FAU came in last with 39 percent.

Considering the scarcity of on-campus housing in the SUS it’s no surprise that UF, which has a wealthy student body, is on top of the graduation rate list. The average family income for UF students is about $105,000 and only 21 percent of its full-time, first-time students receive Pell Grants. Most FAMU students come from families that make $30,000 or less. FAMU is also the only SUS member at which most of the full-time, first-time students receive Pell Grants, with a total of 52 percent.

It’s easy for most UF students to call their parents and get extra money for rent, car gas, and food when prices go up. The majority of FAMU students can’t do that. That's why most FAMU students have to take smaller course loads whenever the cost of college increases. Smaller courses loads hurt the university's six-year graduation rate. If FAMU had more campus housing, the cost of education would be lower and students could take bigger course loads.

FAMU’s new Strategic Plan calls for the university to achieve a 49.7 percent six-year graduation rate by 2020. That year, the university aims to have a total of 15,000 students, with about 2,500 enrolled in graduate programs.

FAMU's ongoing efforts to expand its on-campus housing capacity are a big part of its strategy for improving the six-year graduation rate. FAMU currently has 2,484 beds on campus. The renovation of Sampson and Young Halls (242 beds) by Fall 2011 and opening of the new Polkinghorne Village (800 beds) in Fall 2012 will take the total number of beds up to 3,526.

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

FAMU to grant $3.8M in out-of-state waivers

In an effort to boost FAMU’s retention and graduation rates, FAMU President James H. Ammons plans to grant $3.8M in waivers to out-of-state students in 2010-2011.

“$3.8 million sounds like a lot but it’s not going to go very far,” Ammons told the Capital Outlook. FAMU’s recent general revenue cuts have placed a strain on the financial aid budget, making it harder for the university to assist out-of-state students who are struggling to pay for their education.

In 2009-2010, an out-of-state student taking a full course load had to pay $14,030 plus $1,869 in fees. A full course load for an in-state student cost $2,658 plus $1,300 in fees.

FAMU’s housing shortage makes college very expensive for the student body. Most students come from families that make $30,000 or less per year. Students typically reduce their course loads as the cost of college goes up. That hurts the university's retention and graduation rates.

The increase in out-of-state waivers will give these students more money for class and help them complete their degrees more quickly.

Florida State University is another public institution that is using out-of-state waivers to provide financial relief to its students and raise revenue.

In 2008, FSU trustees approved a 50 percent reduction in fees for certain out-of-state students. That lowered the cost of annual full-time (30 credit hour) enrollment from $18,000 to $12,000 for those students.

The total fee waiver amounts to $999,661. The fee break will help FSU enroll a larger number of out-of-state students and help its current out-of-state students buy more credit hours. In the end, FSU officials expect to create 109 additional out-of-state full-time equivalents (units of 15 credit hours). That will bring in $1,999,322 in new tuition revenue.

FAMU’s in-state students, however, must prepare to pay more. The Westside Gazette recently reported that the FAMU administration plans to implement the maximum in-state tuition increase permitted by law. The legislature mandated an eight percent increase for in-state undergraduates and gave universities the option to add a “differential” that could take the amount up to 15 percent.

“We are anticipating a 15 percent increase in tuition,” Provost Cynthia Hughes-Harris said. “Eight percent will be automatic.”

Thanks to Student Body President Gallop Franklin, II, the Board of Trustees waived last year’s tuition differential for students who qualified for the need-based Florida Public Student Assistance Grant (FPSAG). Franklin also played a key role in persuading the administration to support bigger out-of-state tuition waivers.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

FAU’s ambition undeterred by 39% grad rate

FAMU has yet another reason to tell the critics of its dental school proposal (both inside and outside the university) to shut the hell up: Florida Atlantic University is on track to receive a medical school this legislative session.

FAU’s request for a College of Medicine received a thumbs-up from a Board of Governors subcommittee last week and is expected to easily win the full body’s approval. Fla. House Majority Leader Adam Hasner (R-Delray Beach) believes the legislature will also vote to authorize the program.

Many FAMU opponents say that the university should be not able to add any new graduate or professional programs, like a dental school, until it raises its six-year graduation rate. However, FAU has firmly rejected such arguments against its own academic ambitions. FAU’s six-year graduation rate (39 percent) is actually lower than FAMU’s (41 percent). Despite that fact, state leaders have still given FAU more graduate programs than FAMU.

In January, FAU’s Board of Trustees voted to end its six-year partnership with the Leonard M. Miller School of Medicine at the University of Miami. The agreement began as a two-year program and eventually expanded into a four-year program that permitted FAU students to earn UM medical degrees without leaving their Bacon Raton home campus.

According to the Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel, “FAU will support [its stand-alone medical school] through tuition plus the $12 million in annual state funding it already receives [from the legislature] as part of its UM partnership. FAU plans to charge $21,752 a year for in-state students, down from the $30,000 a year UM charges.” FAU is also preparing to launch a joint M.D./Ph.D. program with the Scripps Kellogg School of Science.

By 2014, the FAU College of Medicine will serve 246 students.

FAU’s progress in building an independent medical school shows that the “raise your six-year graduation rate first” argument is a lame excuse that does not get in the way of universities which want the very best.

Pictured: Boca Raton Community Hospital.

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

FAMU’s grad rate above FAU’s; close to USF's

Many FAMU opponents say that the university should be not able to add any new graduate or professional programs, like a dental school, until it raises its six-year graduation rate. But, institutional research data shows that FAMU is doing well compared to other public institutions that have even more doctorate programs.

In 2008, FAMU’s six-year graduation rate was 41 percent. That was only seven percentage points below the University of South Florida’s rate, which was 48 percent. The national average was 55 percent.

In a recent St. Petersburg Times article, USF officials said that the high level of financial need among their students is one problem that hurts their six-year graduation rate. 49.64 percent of USF’s Class of 2008 took out loans to help pay for their education. At FAMU, 83 percent of the Class of 2008 took out loans. Most FAMU students take smaller course loads when the cost of college goes up, which slows down their progress toward graduation day. But despite that challenge, FAMU’s six-year graduation rate reached the 40s along with USF’s.

USF, like the University of Florida and Florida State, is classified as a “Research University (very high research activity)” by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. The fact that USF has a six-year graduation rate below the national average did not stop the Board of Governors from recently giving it the green light to launch new doctoral programs in pharmacy, history, government, and sociology.

Florida Atlantic University’s six-year graduation rate is 39 percent and its Carnegie classification is “Research University (high research activity).” The BOG has not used FAU’s graduation rate as a reason to question the need for more graduate programs at that university. Last year, BOG members actually praised FAU’s overall academic performance when they appointed former FAU President Frank Brogan as the new SUS chancellor.

If USF can get new doctoral programs with a graduation rate that’s only slightly higher than FAMU’s, and if Brogan is qualified to lead the entire SUS despite the fact that his former university’s graduation rate is lower than FAMU’s, then there’s no reason that FAMU’s current graduation rate should prevent the BOG from approving its dental school proposal.

Sources: FAMU, USF, and FAU Common Set Data and Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System reports.

Monday, October 05, 2009

Study: Tying funding to grad rates could hurt education

In its 2005-2013 Strategic Plan, Florida’s Board of Governors calls for “a revised funding formula that rewards retention and graduation.” While this proposal is being presented as a way to improve academic performance throughout the State University System, a study by the American Federation of Teachers suggests this type of policy could do the very opposite.

Lawrence Gold and Lindsay Albert, who serve as director and senior associate of ATF Higher Education respectively, have raised serious questions about the increasingly popular idea of using college six-year graduation rates as criterion in funding.

Their report, entitled “Graduation Rates as a Measure of College Accountability,” outlines a number of pitfalls with tying college budgets to six-year graduation rates.

A simple look at six-year grades rates does “not take into account students who transfer from one college to another, students who attend part-time at some point during their college careers, students who have financial responsibilities that prevent them from graduating quickly, or students who enter college to improve their job skills and not necessarily to obtain a degree,” the authors wrote.

For example, part-time students make up about 40 percent of America’s college student population. Six-year grad rates fail to recognize how part time status affects a student’s ability to complete a baccalaureate degree quickly.

Tying funding to six-year grad rates could also “create a perverse incentive,” according to the authors. Colleges will be tempted to scale back their low income student populations, which usually take longer to graduate due to their lack of money for courses, or water down academic standards.

Grade inflation has been a big problem in the SUS for decades. If grade inflation isn’t fixed before dollars are attached to graduation and retention rates, then the problem will just get worse. Professors will be under pressure to further shrink the already tiny number of students who receive “F’s” – regardless of whether those failing grades are warranted.

Read the full report here.

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

FAMU seeking federal grants to help renovate Sampson and Young


Note: This is the third and final part of Rattler Nation’s special report on “Dorms and Degrees.”

FAMU has applied for federal funds to assist it in renovating Sampson and Young Halls. If awarded, the money will go a long way toward paying the estimated $13.2M price tag required to bring those two dormitories back up to code.

The university is targeting federal dollars offered by the HBCU Historic Preservation Fund (HPF) run by the National Park Service. Since its establishment in 1966, HPF has provided millions to help HBCUs renovate historical buildings that are in dire need of repair.

U.S. President Barack Obama’s American Recovery and Reinvestment Act appropriated an additional $15 million to HPF for up to 45 awards ranging from $100,000 to $2.5 million.

Sampson (1938) and Young (1929) Halls were both built during the Great Depression and would benefit greatly from the stimulus grants. A 2003 FAMU housing study cited a number of serious problems in the two buildings that include: nonconforming fire doors, inadequate fire alarm systems, deteriorated piping and plumbing systems, insufficient electrical systems, and inadequate fire sprinkler protection.

FAMU closed the two dormitories in 2003 due to the various code violations.

FAMU currently has only 2,484 on-campus beds for a student body that is expected to surpass 12,000 this year. Sampson would add 182 beds and Young would add 94, bringing the campus total up to 2760.

Financing housing renovations is a big challenge in the State University System. The legislature does not appropriate funds for housing construction or maintenance. The State of Florida used to make bonds available for these types of projects in the past, but is not doing so at this time due to budget constraints. FAMU is exploring private bank loan options in addition to its application for HPF money.

Re-opening Sampson and Young would likely give a boost to FAMU’s six-year graduation rate. Housing helps students afford more credit hours by cutting down the cost of living. Campus housing rental rates are usually much cheaper than private-owned apartments. Students also save money by using campus meal plans and walking to class instead of driving. That leaves them with more dollars to spend on courses.

Back when FAMU opened the Palmetto Street South (1993) and Phase III (1997) apartment complexes, lower division students (those with fewer than 60 credit hours) began taking heavier course loads.

President James Ammons recently announced that he’d like to see Sampson and Young renovated and re-opened by 2010. The university is in negotiations with Premier Construction to carry out the project.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

SUS housing shortage a big factor behind grad rate differences


Note: This is part two of Rattler Nation's three-part special report on "Dorms and Degrees."

The State University System of Florida does a pathetic job of housing its students. The Florida legislature constantly requires universities to expand their enrollments but does not pay for housing construction.

Considering the scarcity of on-campus housing in the SUS it’s no surprise that UF, which has a wealthy student body, is on top of the graduation rate list. The average family income for UF students is about $105,000 and only 22.1 percent receive Pell Grants. Most FAMU students come from families that make $30,000 or less. FAMU is also the only SUS member at which most students receive Pell Grants, with a total of 65.3 percent.

It’s easy for most UF students to call their parents and get extra money for rent, car gas, and food when prices go up. The majority of FAMU students can’t do that. That's why most FAMU students have to take smaller course loads whenever the cost of college increases. Smaller courses loads hurt the university's six-year graduation rate. If FAMU had more campus housing, the cost of education would be lower and students could take more classes.

UF and FSU are also the two public universities that have the highest six-year black graduation rates (70.8 and 68 percent respectively in 2007). Both have decreased the cost of educating black students at their institutions. The Gators permitted their black freshman enrollment to drop by 27 percent in Fall 2008 while the Noles let theirs go down by 15 percent.

An important question needs to answered: Are UF and FSU strategically placing a high percentage of their dwindling black student populations in on-campus housing? If those two universities have big percentages of blacks in on-campus housing, that would be another important factor behind their high six-year graduation rates for African Americans. Housing cuts down the cost of living and helps students afford more credit hours.

Florida’s newspapers don’t ever look at this issue when they compare black graduation rates across the system.

Click on graphic to enlarge.

Data Sources: Ed Trust and Campus Explorer.

Monday, September 07, 2009

Housing gives boost to HBCU six-year grad rates


Note: This is part one in Rattler Nation’s three-part special report on “Dorms and Degrees.”

The historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) that exceeded the national average six-year graduation rate in 2007 (53 percent) tended to have something in common: they housed the majority of their students on-campus.

Arkansas Baptist has perfect grad rate

Arkansas Baptist College, a private Little Rock institution that serves about 600 students, led all HBCUs with a perfect 100 percent six-year degree baccalaureate completion rate. It houses 56 percent of its student body on campus.

President Fitz Hill also calls attention to the fact that the college offers “one of the most affordable tuitions in Arkansas.” 79.2 percent receive Pell Grants, which shows why it’s important to keep attendance costs low.

Spelman, Morehouse, Howard, and Fisk’s on-campus housing percentages ranged from 52 percent to 97 percent. All those institutions have six-year graduation rates that meet or exceed the national average. However, family income levels also play a very important role at those schools’ graduation rates. At all those colleges, less than half the student body receives Pell Grants. That means that those students’ parents are in a better position to help them pay for credit hours and finish quickly.

ECSU leads all public HBCUs

Elizabeth City State University in North Carolina topped all public HBCUs with its 50.7 percent six-year graduation rate. It houses 59 percent of its students. 69.9 percent of its students receive Pell Grants.

At a recent HBCU conference in the nation’s capital, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan highlighted ECSU as an example of an HBCU that offers a strong model for others to follow.

Unlike the Florida legislature, North Carolina lawmakers pay for housing construction at public universities such as ECSU. ECSU is also leasing rooms at the “Microtel” motel close to campus in order to provide even more beds for students. The university adjusted its shuttle routes to serve the motel and provided microwaves and refrigerators for the students living there.

FAMU performs comparatively well

FAMU actually performed well among the HBCUs that have very little housing. FAMU only has enough beds to house 20 percent of its students on campus. But even with that problem, it managed to post a higher six-year graduation rate than many other HBCUs that have more campus beds and lower percentages of Pell Grant recipients.

While speaking to HBCU presidents, Duncan warned that “just like other institutions of higher education, HBCUs cannot explain away big differences in graduation rates simply by reference to the usual suspects. The management practices of those colleges have to be part of the explanation -- and part of the solution.”

Below are two examples of common practices that many HBCUs will have to address in addition to housing shortages.

Poorly thought-out tuition policies

FAMU is an example of an HBCU at which the Board of Trustees is harming the graduation rate with its poor policy decisions. FAMU’s housing shortage makes college very expensive for the student body. Most FAMU students come from families that make $30,000 or less per year. But the BOT simply ignores that fact and continues to approve big tuition and fee hikes that students can’t afford. That forces most FAMU students to take smaller course loads, which slows down their progress toward graduation.

Open-admissions policies

Texas Southern University, which has an 11.6 percent six-year graduation, needs more than just additional campus beds. That’s why the university ended its previous open-admission policy last year.

Now all Texas Southern applicants are required to graduate from high school with a minimum 2.0 GPA and take the ACT and/or SAT (no minimum score). Students who graduate in the top 25 percent of their class will be automatically admitted. Any student who does not meet the University’s minimum requirements will still have the opportunity to enroll at the after successfully completing a conditional summer academic program.

These changes are sure to raise Texas Southern’s graduation rate in the future.

Data Sources: Ed Trust and Campus Explorer.

Click on chart to enlarge

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Some trustees clueless about basic FAMU facts

During FAMU’s recent Board of Trustees committee meetings, some trustees revealed that they are clueless about basic FAMU facts posted on the university and Board of Governors’ websites.

Even though years of FAMU graduation rate records are available in the online State University System fact books and FAMU fact books, Trustee R.B. Holmes, Jr. and several trustees had no idea how to find that information. They had to ask administrators for the current and recent graduation numbers.

If Holmes had taken two minutes to look on FAMU’s website before the meeting, he would have found this table that is clearly labeled “Graduation and Retention Rates.”

The Class of 2008’s six-year graduation (41 percent) was posted on FAMU’s website months ago in the most recent Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System report.

An even more bizarre moment occurred when Holmes and other trustees repeatedly asked why less than 50 percent of FAMU undergraduates finish in six years.

Again, the online SUS fact books are filled with information that those trustees must have failed to read. The data clearly shows that most FAMU students' families make $30,000 or less per year. When college costs rise, most FAMU students enroll in fewer courses.

As one of the two longest serving BOT members, Holmes has repeatedly voted for tuition hikes that resulted in students taking smaller course loads. Instead of asking administrators to give him data that’s already posted on famu.edu, he should be asking himself: “Why have I done so little to help FAMU students afford heavier course loads?”

None of FAMU’s trustees live in a foreign country where internet access is scarce. In 21st century America, all professionals should know how to point and click to find basic facts on the website of an organization they're supposed to be leading.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Housing expansion essential to raising grad rate


Data from FAMU and State University System annual fact books shows that campus housing expansion is vital to improving the university’s six-year graduation rate.

Back when FAMU opened the Palmetto Street South (1993) and Phase III (1997) apartment complexes, lower division students (those with fewer than 60 credit hours) began taking heavier course loads. Each of the new facilities housed 360 students, which brought a total of 720 new living spaces to campus.

The average lower division student credit hour load rose from 13.9 in 1994 to a peak of 14.2 in 1997.

Housing helps students afford more credit hours by cutting down the cost of living. Campus housing rental rates are usually much cheaper than private-owned apartments. Students also save money by using campus meal plans and walking to class instead of driving. That leaves them with more dollars to spend on courses.

Since 1997, FAMU’s lower division course loads have dropped like a rock. The State of Florida required FAMU to continuously increase its enrollment, but the university did not build any new housing complexes for the thousands of new students. Housing is an auxiliary department that cannot receive state money.

The problem got even worse from 2003 to 2004. During those years, FAMU closed Sampson Hall (1938), Young Hall (1929), and Polkinghorne Apartments (1966). All those facilities were old structures that had serious building code/safety problems. The closures took away a total of 409 beds.

FAMU’s leasing contract with University Gardens and Cottages of Magnolia did little to help the problem of decreasing student course loads. The two facilities added 669 beds to FAMU housing. However, they were more expensive than the regular dormitories or apartments.

In 2003, each Cottages room cost $2,284. A single at Gardens cost $2,284 and a double cost $1,980.

In comparison, a single at Phase III was only $1,925 and a double was only $1,714. A double at Cropper Hall or Wheatley Hall only cost $1,517.

FAMU terminated its contract for Cottages and Gardens in 2005, losing the 669 beds. The leaser, Booth Properties, later sued and received a $1.5 million settlement for the remaining three years left on the contract.

In 2007, FAMU’s average lower division credit hour load was just 13.5. Currently, FAMU students usually take smaller course loads in response to rising college costs such as tuition hikes. Housing is critical to reducing living costs and helping students take heavier course loads so they can graduate within six years.

FAMU's current six-year graduation rate is 41 percent.

The Student Housing Comprehensive Master Plan approved by FAMU’s Board of Trustees in 2004 calls for the university to have a total of 4,231 beds by Spring 2015. The top priorities are: demolishing Polkinghorne, building Phase IV Suites at the former Polkinghorne site, building Phase V-B (south of Phase III), and building Phase V-A (south of Palmetto South).

Pictured: Polkinghorne Apartments, closed since 2004.

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

FAMU’s six-year grad rate slightly up

After dipping down to its lowest point in 13 years, FAMU’s six-year graduation took a slight bounce upward in 2008-2009.

According to FAMU’s Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) report, 41 percent of the Class of 2008 (which entered in 2002) completed baccalaureate degrees this year.

That’s up from a 39 percent six-year graduation rate for the Class of 2007. That figure was the lowest since 1995, when 39.4 percent finished undergraduate degrees in six-years. Among Florida’s public universities, only FAU (38 percent) and FGCU (35 percent) had lower rates that year. The national average for the Class of 2007 was 53 percent.

FAMU President James Ammons points to rising college costs as the number one factor that hurts the FAMU’s graduation rate.

FAMU's median family income is only $30,000 per year. When tuition and fees rise, FAMU students usually enroll in fewer courses.

"These are students who can't call home and say, 'Mom, I need $1,000 for a class,'" Ammons said. "Ninety percent of FAMU students are on financial aid."

Ammons has taken some big steps to help students graduate faster, including hiring a new director of retention and calling for students to be given more help in applying for financial aid.

However, FAMU's decision to implement a 7 percent differential option on top of the 8 percent tuition bump approved by the Florida Legislature could have an unintended negative impact on future graduation rates. The new tuition increases threaten to eat up the new financial aid provided by U.S. President Barack Obama's American Opportunity Tax Credit.

The maximum Pell Grant award increased from $3,000 in 1998 to $4,310 in 2007. But still, the new financial aid did not stop FAMU’s lower division credit hour loads from dropping. Pell Grants have not kept pace with tuition hikes.