Staff Editorial May 4, 1998

Raising low graduation rates
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IDS Editorial Staff

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-- As the rites of spring commencement approach, the University concerns itself with the issues of student retention and graduation rates. Recently, University administration presented figures for IU¹s seven- and 10-year graduation rates, which appear to be low relative to what the University expects. In addition, the administration has alluded to the possibility of smaller graduating classes in the next several years because of lower retention of students from one year to the next.

While retention and graduation rates are important statistics to follow and to be concerned about, the administration is proposing solutions that do not accurately address the problem. The University plans to make some of the lower-level classes easier in order to encourage students to stick around. The general idea is that students should have easier classes and get easier grades ‹ which will raise retention and graduation rates. While we must applaud the administration for trying to care for students¹ success, their efforts are woefully misdirected.

For one, difficult course work is not the only reason students fail to return to school from one year to the next. Other likely causes include lack of financial support for a higher education, difficulty adapting to a college environment and lack of motivation to complete their collegiate studies. Many students leave IU every year to attend other colleges or to take jobs ‹ with a booming economy, the real world is not as scary and often harder to resist than it once was. Greater availability of financial aid, better quality programs to ease the transition to college life and administration-sponsored events to raise student morale would go a long way toward keeping students in Bloomington.

With respect to low or falling graduation rates ‹ University released a statistic for 10-year graduation rates in the 70-percent range ‹ the administration simply must adjust its expectations. Not everyone who begins a college career has what it takes ‹ the intellectual capacity, the financial backing or the intrinsic motivation ‹ to complete their programs. This is not a problem that can be dissolved by merely ³dummying down² or decreasing difficulty, or the required course work.

If low graduation rates are really all that bad (when it comes to the competency of the University¹s graduates, they might not be), perhaps the administration would be better directed to devote more resources to individualized admissions screening practices. In this manner, those individuals who will not likely stay at IU through graduation might not be admitted in the first place. No classes would have to be ³dummied down,² and the retention and graduation statistics would be perfectly fine.

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