How Long Does it Take to Graduate?

Last week, the Exponent ran an article about MSU’s enrollment growing more rapidly than planned, namely that the school is growing faster than expected and more importantly, faster than it can accommodate. What does this mean for students on campus? It means the university may not have the facilities or faculty to handle incoming classes.

Vice-President of Student Success Robert Marley commented “Do we need to slow down? Probably.” There have been no suggestions as to what the university can do to solve the issue of how MSU is going to slow down enrollment rates and accommodate the higher volume of new students.

One of the goals of MSU’s Strategic Plan goal is to increase the six-year graduation rate from 50 to 65 percent by 2019. The four-year graduation rate, which stands at 20 percent, is left out of the Strategic Plan, perhaps due to the difficulty of the task.

So how is our school going to do this? For starters, a great way to slow enrollment rates would be to stop admitting less-qualified freshman. MSU’s current retention rate for students from freshman to sophomore year is 75 percent; being more selective of incoming freshmen could benefit the admissions situation. MSU appears willing to do this. The university’s acceptance rate stands at 60 percent according to a report by U.S. News, compared to University of Montana’s 90 percent. Increased enrollment can give MSU the opportunity to be even more selective with potential students and maybe raise freshman retention rates.

But, back to the strategic plan: An increase from 50 to 65 percent is unreasonable. The graduation rate has been essentially stable for the last few years meaning raising that number will be difficult for the administration. Limiting incoming freshman is going to help the problem — not fix it.

[pullquote align=”right”]MSU’s acceptance rate stands at 60 percent, compared to University of Montana’s 90 percent.[/pullquote]

What is needed from MSU is a plan to help students graduate. Each specific major produces a guide to what classes to take in order to graduate in four years. With the common graduation being closer to six years, perhaps more information should be presented to students about which classes they should take in order to graduate in six years instead of four.

What is the administration doing to help graduation rates? That is not an easy question to answer. The Strategic Plan cites goals and offers a series of investments MSU is making to relieve strained facilities and resources, most notably the Jake Jabs College of Business and Entrepreneurship, which is currently under construction.

In addition, MSU currently is using programs such as DegreeWorks, which shows students the classes they need for their degree, and requiring students to meet with advisors to improve graduation rates. Efforts such as these help but are in their infancy. These investments will have an effect over time, but the goal is to raise the graduation rate to 65 percent by 2019, the year the majority of the current freshman class will graduate.

MSU already measures itself by a six-year graduation rate. If the average student is not taking the four-year path to graduation, students should be aware that this is the case.  Eliminating the pressure to graduate in four years just might help raise the six-year graduation rate.