UT’s Grade on Graduation Rates? ‘I’ For Incomplete

UT's Grade on Graduation Rates? I for Incomplete

On one of the most crucial measures of a top university’s success, four-year graduation rates, UT-Austin’s grade is ‘incomplete.’ And if not for the recent plan put in place to improve that rate from slightly above 50 percent—where it’s been flat for several years—to 70 percent within five years, the grade would be an F. For a school with UT’s resources and high quality of entering students—from families which have income two to three times the average family—there is absolutely no excuse for such a poor graduation rate.

Low graduation rates are one of the most costly outcomes—to students, families, taxpayers, and contributors—on which we can make a quantifiable judgment. Considering the total per-student cost per year, including tuition, the significant additional subsidies from public and private sources, and the lost annual income from a student not entering the workforce, it is easily $50,000 a year over the normal four years to graduation. And each seat occupied in the extra time to a degree takes away a potential seat from another qualified Texas student. With only slightly more than a 50 percent four-year graduation rate, it is easy to see the enormous financial failure that’s been left unattended to for years.

A high graduation rate is the highest priority and responsibility for institutional managers. UT leaders are clearly able to control the outcome by properly reallocating existing resources. UT revenues over the last 15 years have tripled, along with only small increases in enrollment and inflation, so ample resources exist to improve graduation rates without the additional funds claimed by current leadership. The steps required include a strong commitment to sound academic and personal counseling services for students, adequate financial aid for those in need, courses made available to students on time, and adherence to a plan regarding courses and majors designed to graduate in four years.

UT-Austin has not always received direct state funding equal to others or to its constitutional status, but that’s not an excuse for low graduation rates. UT has been extremely well served by the people of the Texas, its leaders, its philanthropists, and its taxpayers. It deserves acclaim. It also needs to get much more productive in the current circumstances for higher education everywhere in order to improve its high quality and high ranking.

Charles Miller is a former chairman of the UT Board of Regents.

 

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