Pharos-Tribune

February 20, 2014

Study spotlights Indiana college completion rates

One in 10 students pursuing two-year degrees finishes on time.

By Amie Sites Pharos-Tribune
Pharos-Tribune

---- — A new report on college completion for students who earn a degree, regardless of the path or timeline, was released Tuesday.

The report by the Indiana Commission for Higher Education highlights the need for a post-secondary degree or credential and presents data collected from Indiana colleges through a partnership between the state’s public colleges, the National Student Clearinghouse and the Indiana Commission for Higher Education.

Indiana Commissioner for Higher Education Teresa Lubbers said improving college completion begins with a clearer understanding of “where we are and where we need to go.”

Although an on-time degree is the best and most affordable option to college graduation, it is understood there are a mix of students including full-time students, part-time students, transfer students and students who change credentials or degrees, Lubbers said.

Statewide, 28.2 percent of students who attend two-year colleges complete a degree and 68.6 percent of students who attend a four-year college complete a degree.

After finding that data, the Indiana Commission for Higher Education has put a strategic plan in place to promote an increase in college completion to 60 percent of the state’s population by 2025.

To meet that challenge, colleges in the state are creating new programs to promote completion, the report said.

The report looks at college completion at Ivy Tech, Indiana University Kokomo and various other Indiana campuses, as well as what can be done to improve the graduation rate.

A DIFFERENT KINDOF CAMPUS

Susan Sciame-Giesecke, interim chancellor at Indiana University Kokomo, said officials at Indiana University Kokomo are very aware and focused on completion rates.

Data collected from Indiana University Kokomo indicates 8.5 percent of students at the school complete their degrees on time and 16.4 percent complete late for a total campus completion rate of 24.9 percent. The number is increased by the number of students who transfer and complete a degree — 17.8 percent — for a total student completion rate of 42.6 percent.

“We’re a different kind of campus,” Sciame-Giesecke said. “We have part-time and full-time students as well as younger students as well as adults.”

Several programs have been put in to place to encourage college completion. A few years ago a campaign called “complete in four” was started and asked students to declare a graduate date.

“We found when we asked students when they were going to graduation, many didn’t have a clear date in mind,” Sciame-Giesecke said. “We wanted them to see the end of the light at the tunnel.”

Each student who participated got a button with their year and a card with an app that helped map out the four-year plan.

After success with that campaign, a program was created to push earning 120 credits. Each time a student reaches 30, 60, 90 and then 120 credits they receive a button that says “got 30,” “got 60,” and so on, all the way up to 120. Students also received a letter from Sciame-Giesecke that congratulated them each step of the way.

There has also been an initiative to encourage taking 15 credit hours, a pace that allows students to graduate in four years.

“We don’t want to make someone feel like they’re a failure if they can’t complete school in four years,” Sciame-Giesecke said. “We simply want them to set a clear plan on when they’re going to graduate.”

The overall goal is completion, a challenge the state has identified, Sciame-Giesecke said.

“We will continue to set a goal each year and move that needle as best as we can,” Sciame-Giesecke said. “We have always been focused on completion and will continue to be.”

THE MOST COMPLEXSTUDENT BODY

Ivy Tech is also focused on college completion. There has been an increase in graduation rates each of the last few years which result in awarding record numbers of credentials year after year, according to Jeff Fanter, vice president for student experience, communications and marketing at Ivy Tech Community College.

Some initiatives include a restructuring of the academic division. There will be four divisions in the new structure, including the University and Transfer Division, Health Division, Business and Public Services Division, and Technology and Applied Sciences Division, a press release said.

The program will better align programs with student’s career path, the release said. Students with undecided majors will be able to have meta-majors programming, where students can select a broad category to explore interests.

Another initiative includes a Math Pathways Project — which allows the mathematic curriculum to support different needs. Primary objectives for the Math Pathways Project are to help students who aren’t ready for college-level math and provide math curriculum relevant to needs in the workforce, according to a press release.

The reasoning for the data collected in the report is that Ivy Tech has “the most complex student body in all of higher education,” Fanter said.

At Ivy Tech, 3.8 percent of students complete on time and 15.7 percent of students complete late for a total campus completion rate of 19.5 percent. That number is increased by the number of students who transfer and complete a degree — 8.2 percent — for a total student completion rate of 27.7 percent.

The definition of on time for Ivy Tech students might be different than other definitions of on time, Fanter said.

“A large number of our students work, many have families and nearly 70 percent are Pell students along with just under 70 percent needing college prep courses,” Fanter said. “Factor all of this and you see the results that you see not to mention that our student advisor ratio is 1 to 1,200.”

3 in 10 students at four-year schools graduate on time 1 in 10 students finish a two-year degree on time $31,369 -- Average spent per degree produced at two-year colleges $62,208 -- Average spent per degree produced at four-year colleges Out of 100 full-time students at Indiana University Kokomo: • 15 complete college within four years • 34 complete within six years • 43 complete within eight years Out of 100 students at Ivy Tech: • Five students complete within two years • 20 complete within four years • 28 complete within six years