coloradocat wrote: ↑
Tue Sep 15, 2020 8:51 pm
coachouert wrote: ↑
Tue Sep 15, 2020 7:55 pm
coloradocat wrote: ↑
Tue Sep 15, 2020 3:37 pm
Congrats to MSU on continued improvement. There are some interesting stats in the article though.
MSU’s retention rate – the percentage of first-year students returning for their second year – hit its highest mark in more than 30 years of modern record keeping at 78.2% percent.
Crazy that they set a record in this department. However, I suppose students may have felt they would be better off coming back to Bozeman and hanging out with their friends than staying home with their parents. Also, many unskilled jobs are probably still be unavailable.
MSU recorded modern-era records in its four- and six-year graduation rates as well. The fall figures showed that the four-year graduation rate was up to 34.7% from 29.7% last year. And the six-year rate — which is commonly looked at in federal statistics — was up slightly to 56.4%.
“One in three of our students is graduating in four years,” Cruzado said. “That is simply amazing.”
I'm not sure how good those numbers are relative to other universities but as nominal percentages they're terrible and prove that too many kids go to college. A college degree generally pays off (results vary across majors of course) but I don't see how dropping out of college can possibly pay off. Based on these numbers more than half of the students should either get a job or find a trade school / community college. They can still try a university later but clearly it's not the correct choice right out of high school. It's too bad high schools have become a feeder system for four year colleges rather than helping students identify the best avenue for success.
Keep in mind that MSU's foundation is built on access and that access mission is grounded in the admission requirements. As long as a student has a 2.5 GPA, 22 ACT or 1120 SAT this past year, they would be admitted. In many other states that have stronger community college systems, many students towards the bottom of those ranges would not be admitted, but have the option to attend a two-year school that is nearby and eventually transfer to a four-year. In MT, we have three community colleges (FVCC, DCC and MCC) and a handful of two year schools that provide both a community college-ish education and technical education (Great Falls College, City College, Highlands College, Missoula College and Helena College) along with the seven tribal colleges. In Montana, depending on where a student is living may have the luxury of attending a CC so they see a four-year school like MSU as the only option even if they need more preparedness. There is also still the stigma for students that after high school you go to college and if you don't, you're a failure which is another challenge in itself.
As an aside, MUS is no longer requiring test scores for students entering in the fall of 2021 so as long as a student has a 2.5 GPA out of high school, they will be admitted to any four-year campus in MT. This will have long-term impacts on graduation and retention for all schools. It'll be interesting to see how that plays out.
In relation to the original post, while these numbers are down compared to where we have been previously, this is a win considering the current climate and all the challenges we are experiencing daily. Between graduating more students this last spring, increasing retention and of course COVID, the faculty and staff at MSU did an excellent job.
Sorry for the long winded post.
I think the part of your post that I bolded is the biggest issue that needs to be overcome. There's definitely a lack of community colleges in Montana (makes sense considering our small and spread out population) but it sure seems like they would be a better option for a majority of high school graduates, at least for the first year or two. I assume Gallatin College belongs in one of your two lists as well by the way. It would be great if high schools instituted a program where they educated students on options post-HS as well as financial life skills and provided them with a look at what kind of options there are for each path (university, community college, tech school, jobs that don't require post-HS ed). I think a lot of kids just go to college because that's what they assume they have to do.
With all due respect to Coach Ouert and his responsibilities at MSU (assuming that he's in the same (or a similar) role as when I was at MSU), Colorado Cat is spot
accurate with his or her concerns. Waaaay too many students go straight from high school into four-year universities for at least two reasons. One is that, as CO Cat says, high-school graduates are not *nearly* sufficiently informed about the different educational paths (noted in parentheses above) or about the career options available at the ends of the different educational paths. The second is already noted by both posters: "kids just go to college because that's what they assume they have to do" [CO Cat] and "the stigma for students that after high school you go to college and if you don't, you're a failure which is another challenge in itself" [Coach O].
Nick Adams writes a pretty good book ("Class Dismissed") on the topic of university education not being for everyone. The book's content seems pretty darn obvious to any of us who think about this issue a lot. But, I think that it can be insightful for any students (and their families) who opt for "college because that's what they assume they have to do".
I have three major complaints about college education being over-emphasized in terms of its importance. (My first and third complaints should ideally be addressed via high-school guidance counseling. The second pertains to incentives not being aligned.)
The first one is that too many high-school graduates are entirely too clueless about what they want to do with the adult phases of their lives. Rather than meandering through a four-year university education, changing majors a few times, and perhaps ultimately graduating, these people would be better off by waiting for a few years before entering college. They can instead work, or spend a few years in the military ... giving themselves some time to think, evaluate options, have exposure to other avenues in life, toughen up, and mature. (Too many incoming, traditional-age freshmen are entirely too immature, mentally.)
My second complaint is that too many students choose majors that don't easily translate into decent-paying jobs with decently high employment rates upon graduation. Such students often graduate with large amounts of debt, only to get jobs that were almost equally accessible if the students had pursued them straight out of high school (or definitely out of trade school or a two-year community college). [Many of these students are the ones that we hear about in the news, the ones who want their $50,000 student-loan debts cancelled.]
One of the main problems here is that incentives are misaligned. While I strongly disagree with these people being allowed to forgo their debt obligations, I do believe that they have a sometimes-legitimate gripe. They were encouraged to pursue certain majors that offer relatively poor prospects for employment in the relevant fields after college. Some fields have a decent number of jobs but waaay too many people with degrees in this field, making for supply-demand mismatch. Other fields just have so very few legitimate jobs that the issue is simply a shortage of jobs.
The incentive misalignment is as follows. Without a doubt, one motivation of a university is to remain profitable ... or at least break even, financially. Obviously, students bring positive gross profits (revenues less expenses), so universities have an incentive to admit and enroll students. [Sidenote: This statement about positive gross profits is true for flagship institutions in university systems. It's usually untrue for the 'satellite' campuses, which are often subsidized by the money-making institution(s) in the university system.] Of course, not every student wants to be educated in a field with almost-guaranteed solid post-graduation employment (such as engineering, accounting, or nursing). So, academic programs still lure students in, while being unable to promise plentiful, gainful employment opportunities at the end.
My suggestion is that universities need to have more skin in the game. I envision some sort of mechanism where the university would promise to repay, say, 30% or 40% of a student's debt if, upon that student's graduation, he or she is unable to secure decent employment in the field in which he or she was educated. The definition of "decent employment" is beyond the scope of this post.
My third complaint is that *many* people would be better off, lifelong-wise, if they pursue a trade career such as welding, plumbing, radiology, dental hygiene, heating/ventilation/air-conditioning, auto repair, aircraft maintenance, etc. Often, a person can graduate in these fields roughly two or three years sooner than if pursuing a four-year education ... meaning sooner access to healthy, steady income streams ... and, importantly, entering trade fields where jobs are relatively plentiful. Instead, various parties along the way steer this category of student in the wrong direction (namely, toward a degree at a four-year institution).
With all of this said, I think that Coach Ouert and his krew at Montana State University are doing a great job. The retention rates, graduation rates, and other statistics quoted by Coach are all very impressive. MSU has solid administrators, many excellent professors, and great non-educational staff.
I will close with something that I simply want all of you to think about, though. Higher graduation rates can be achieved in one of two ways. One is to maintain high standards and have students and faculty put forth tons of new, extra effort so that (i) students master material to high
levels and (ii) the university thus maintains its high
standards. Another way, however, is to lower the standards, keep the aforementioned effort levels the same
as before, and have students master material to lesser
levels by the time that they graduate. This thought is not at all specific to MSU; it's something to think about across all of academia as universities everywhere are tasked by their Regents to make improvements along the lines mentioned in Coach Ouert's post.
Thanks for reading! I'm pretty passionate about this topic.