by James A. Bacon
The University of Virginia has the highest graduation rate of any public university in the country, a record it can be proud of. Some analysts contend, however, that UVa’s exception performance can be attributed to the fact that it admits a lower percentage of students from low-income families, who are at higher risk of dropping out. Others counter that UVa’s emphasis on merit-based admissions is appropriate for Virginia’s flagship university. It is too early yet to tell if recent changes in UVa admissions policies, such as dropping the requirement to submit SAT scores, will impact graduation rates.
The State Council of Higher Education for Virginia (SCHEV) publishes a breakdown of six-year graduation rates by race/ethnicity for the 2015 entering class (seen above). Though small in number, students who identified as American Indian scored a stellar 100% graduation rate. Among major groups, Asians performed the best, with a 95% graduation rate. Whites followed with a 93% rate, and Hispanics close behind with a 92% rate. By contrast, only 84% of Blacks graduated.
The lower graduation for Blacks at UVa should be a source of concern.
by James A. Bacon
The dirty secret of the higher-ed industry is the high rate at which students drop out of college. The six-year graduation rate for full-time, in-state students entering Virginia’s public four-year institutions in 1995 was 60%, implying a drop-out rate of 40%, according to State Council of Higher Education for Virginia (SCHEV) data.
After Virginia institutions made strenuous efforts to improve performance, the rate increased to 73% for the 2015 entering class — a big improvement. But there is still a long way to go — and it’s not yet clear from the published data what impact the COVID pandemic had on completions.
(The University of Virginia has the highest six-year graduation rate of any public university in the country: 92.1% at last count. But the rate varies by race/ethnicity and socioeconomic status. See the following post for details.)
A high drop-out rate is a major social issue. Thousands of Virginia students spend tens of thousands of dollars, often borrowed, on tuition, fees, room, and board without ever acquiring a credential to improve their job prospects. Recognizing the problem, SCHEV has issued a report, “What Matters Most,” which explores how Virginia higher-ed can get better results.
The report contains some useful perspectives. But, as one might expect from a document compiled with input from university administrators with vested interests and sacred cows to protect — deans of students, vice presidents of student affairs, vice presidents of admissions, student support services administrators, and unspecified “subject matter experts” — it has blind spots as well. Continue reading