Thirty-seven percent of students who began their undergraduate degree at one of the 14 universities in the Pennsylvania System of Higher Education (PASSHE) system in 2010 graduated in four years, according to PASSHE System Research Office. Overall, Slippery Rock University ranks first as about half of the 1,568 students who began their undergraduate degree at Slippery Rock University in 2010 were able to graduate in four years.
Carrie Birckbichler, Associate Provost for Academic Financial Management and Institutional Research, said that SRU’s statistics for graduation rates are very high in comparison to other PASSHE universities. Birckbichler added that the numbers do not reflect transfer data.
PASSHE universities on the west side of Pennsylvania and in close proximity to SRU include California University, Edinboro University, Clarion University and Indiana University.
Of students who began at each of those universities in 2010, about 64 percent didn’t graduate in four years from Clarion, about 64 percent didn’t graduate from Indiana in four years, about 63 percent didn’t graduate from California in four years and about 72 percent didn’t graduate in four years from Edinboro.
PASSHE universities on the east side of Pennsylvania include Bloomsburg University, Cheyney University, East Stroudsburg University, Kutztown University, Lock Haven University, Mansfield University, Millersville University, Shippensburg University and West Chester.
West Chester University comes in second in comparison to SRU as about 45 percent of their students who began in 2010 graduated in four years. An outlier in the PASSHE system is Cheyney University, as 95 percent of students beginning in 2010 didn’t graduate in four years.
The other seven universities average a total of about 64 percent of students not graduating in four years.
Amanda Yale, Associate Provost for Enrollment Services, said that there are several reasons why a student may not graduate in four years. Change of major, dropping out to take care of family or for medical reasons, the amount of time it takes for the student to declare a major, lack of success in major and need to improve GPA, the addition of a second major or a minor and students not being able to receive all the classes that they need can all affect a student’s chance at being able to graduate in four years.
She said that the creation of FYRST Seminar and the Living Learning Communities in the residence halls assist students with not only transition, but growth and development as well.
She said that over the years, the quality of the students has improved and the efforts that have been made have helped them succeed.
“We are one of only a few PASSHE institutions who have improved their retention rates to over 80 percent for the past five or six years,” Yale said. “Also, in comparison to national retention rates, SRU’s rates are above the national averages.”
Yale said that her office works very closely with incoming freshmen’s needs and uses strategic planning to satisfy those needs.
In addition to the creation of FYRST Seminar and LLCs, Yale explained that there has been an improvement with advising for students, enhancement in technology with the improvements of self-service websites and integration of social media in the classroom, which she feels also help students succeed at SRU. She also said that there is an expected new launch this summer for even further website improvements.
“We need to continue our efforts to intentionally and purposefully work campus wide with faculty, administrators, staff and students to continually consider what we are doing and how we are delivering these services now and in the future,” Yale said. “This means that assessment is incredibly important to these efforts as well as strategic planning. SRU’s culture is very student centered and with that said, to be student centered, we always need to be focused on creating successful pathways to graduation.”
This is the first part of a three part series called ‘The Four-Year Myth.’