Board Eyes Graduation Rates

Monday, March 12, 2012

Lisa Favela received a bachelor’s degree from West Texas A&M University in four years, the ideal time frame for graduating college.

But Favela, now a graduate student at WT, said she would have spent more time as an undergraduate had she not enrolled in classes during the summer semester when she attended the university from 2003 to 2007.

Officials at WT and other public universities across the state are trying to improve graduation rates as part of a greater effort to help students and the state save on college costs.

“Getting students in and out as quickly as possible and with as few credits as possible is a benefit to the state, as it means less money we have to spend on that student,” said Dominic Chavez, a spokesman for the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board. “But it also benefits students because they’re not spending more money to get a degree to move on to the work force.”

The state spent an average of $6,500 per full-time student on higher education last year, he said. That money covers the cost of instruction and operational expenses, he said.

The average four-year graduation rate at Texas’ 38 public universities was 29 percent in 2010, according to figures from the higher education board. Only two schools, The University of Texas at Austin and Texas A&M University, managed to graduate half of their students in four years.

The same board figures show WT’s four-year graduation rate during that time was 25.3 percent, placing 10th in the state behind UT, A&M and Texas Tech University, which is at fourth with 42.1 percent.

WT figures show 24.6 percent of the university’s full-time and first-time freshmen who enrolled in fall 2007 graduated in four years, up from the 16 percent rate for freshmen who enrolled in fall 2003.

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