Academic performance and advisement of university students: a case study. Ads by Google Online University Online University programs 100% Online, 100% Supported! WaldenUniversity. com Subject: Academic achievement (Analysis) College students (Case studies) Student guidance services (Analysis) Authors: Addus, Abdussalam A. Chen, David Khan, Anwar S. Pub Date: 06/01/2007 Publication: Name: College Student Journal Publisher: Project Innovation (Alabama) Audience: Academic Format: Magazine/Journal Subject: Education Copyright: COPYRIGHT 2007 Project Innovation (Alabama) ISSN: 0146-3934 Issue:

Date: June, 2007 Source Volume: 41 Source Issue: 2 Topic: Canadian Subject Form: School counselling Product: Product Code: E197500 Students, College Geographic: Geographic Scope: North Carolina Geographic Code: 1U5NC North Carolina Ads by Google Chevening English Test Sit Your PTE Academic Test Now Easy Sign Up & Results In 5 Days! Pearsonpte. com/Chevening Become a Doctor in the US Study at Offshore Campus, Practise Medicine in the U. S. Apply Today! www. AUAMed. org Harvest West Christian Leadership Training Certificate, Diploma and Degree www. harvestwest. edu. au Online MBA Course at LSBF UK Global MBA degree, 100% online.

Choose MBA specialisation now! www. LSBF. org. uk/MBA-Online Learn Financial Modeling Step-by-Step, Self Study & Classes Buld DCF, LBO, M&A, Comps Models www. WallStreetPrep. com Accession Number: 163679000 Full Text: The lack of adequate background and/or preparation, among other things, causes many students to withdraw from college or to graduate with low grades, which often makes it difficult for them to obtain suitable jobs. This paper examines the academic performance and efforts to seek assistance for academic and related problems of undergraduate students at North Carolina A&T State University.

To that effect, the grade reports of business and economics majors and responses to a survey of students enrolled in business and economics courses were qualitatively analyzed. The results of the analyses indicated that many students experienced academic deficiency and did not seek assistance when faced with problems. The results also revealed that many of the students who sought assistance rated the services they received as ineffective and indicated their preference for school-level advisement services.

The development of a school-specific academic monitoring and advisement center would alleviate these problems. Such a center, with a comprehensive and extended advisement and counseling program, will be more effective than university-wide services in improving student academic performance and marketability upon graduation. ********** Teaching, research and service are usually used as a yardstick to measure faculty contributions to higher education institutions. Major universities have long stressed the importance of research activities relative to teaching.

Over the last two decades, many of smaller teaching institutions, including the Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) where research activities were recognized only to the extent that they would keep educators and the knowledge they transmit to students current, have been under pressure to acquire external funds for scholarships, faculty development, and meeting accreditation standards (Fielding 1985). As these institutions, particularly the HBCUs, placed more emphasis on faculty research productivity, they are faced with the challenge of striking a balance between teaching and research activities.

Nevertheless, most colleges and universities recognize that teaching is the ultimate goal of their institutions (Wiley 1993). The main factors considered for improving teaching effectiveness among other things, include teaching approaches and techniques and faculty availability for student assistance and advisement. However, students in higher education institutions must be motivated and committed to make reasonable efforts toward handling various activities, such as reading, written assignments, class discussion, presentation and examinations, effectively.

Accordingly, the students' commitment to attain a good education, their study habits and cooperation, their motivation and efforts to seek assistance, when needed, are equally critical for learning. Thus, since the provision and consumption of education service occur simultaneously, the students' active participation in the process is a necessary condition to transform teaching to effective learning (Norales and Addus 2003). This paper assesses the academic performance and efforts of undergraduate students to seek assistance for academic and related problems at North Carolina A&T State.

The paper (1) examines the academic performance and deficiencies of the students in terms of their overall grade point averages; (2) identifies the relative magnitude of student academic and related problems from freshman to senior classifications; (3) presents student evaluation of the effectiveness of advisement and counseling services available to students; and (4) recommends the development of a school-specific academic monitoring and advisement center to improve student academic performance and marketability upon graduation.

Methods and Instrumentation The 1998 grade point averages (GPAs) of undergraduate business and economics majors were used to determine the levels of student academic performance and deficiencies, with the application of chi-square statistic test to the relevant data. The student grade reports (the most recent data available) were obtained from the North Carolina A&T State University's School of Business and Economics. In addition, data from students were collected through a student survey of 2002.

The sample for the student advisement and counseling effectiveness questionnaire consisted of students enrolled in business and economics courses at North Carolina A State University. The questionnaire items were designed to elicit responses from students to determine the magnitude of student academic and related problems, efforts to seek assistance to solve their problems, evaluation of effectiveness assistance they received, and preference for the location of advising and monitoring services within the University.

The results of this study can be used as a source of data that can provide information on the curriculum effectiveness at North Carolina A State and other universities. Such data can assist educators in curriculum planning and development so that they can better meet the needs of students. Student Academic Performance and Survey Results The results of this study are based on the examination of the School of Business and Economics student GPAs and the student advisement and counseling survey of students enrolled in business and economics courses at North Carolina A State University.

The results are centered around (1) the student academic performance levels and deficiencies; (2) the magnitude of student academic and related problems; (3) the students efforts to seek assistance to solve problems; (4) the student evaluation of effectiveness assistance received; and (5) the student preference for the location of advising and monitoring services. The following are the findings of the study based on student grade point averages and student advisement and counseling services questionnaire responses. Student Academic performance

The school of Business and Economics at North Carolina A State University consists of accounting, business administration, business education and economics and transportation/logistics departments. The distributions of grade point average of students enrolled in the School during the 1998 fall semester are presented in Table 1. For the data in the Table, the chi-square test statistic is significant. This indicates that grade distributions by classification are statistically different. Generally, the number of students with low grade point averages decreased from freshman to senior classifications.

In other words, more freshmen maintained lower grades relative to seniors, and more seniors maintained higher grade point averages than freshmen. More specifically, the data indicates that, in the School of Business and Economics, 55% of freshman, 14% of sophomore, 16% of junior, and 6% of senior students maintained below 2. 00 grade point averages. The decline in the proportion of students with lower grades from the freshman to senior levels is an indication of either grade improvements, transfer from one program to another or withdrawal and/or suspension/dismissal from the university.

In their senior year, 41% of students maintained a GPA of below 2. 50, 23% below 2. 25, and 6% below 2. 00. For all classifications, 53% of students maintained a GPA of below 2. 50, 39% below 2. 25, and 26% below 2. 00. The School of Business and Economics cannot afford to ignore 23% students who may graduate with a GPA of lower than 2. 25 and 41% below 2. 50, only to find it difficult to find professional jobs of their choice in their respective fields.

Apparently, students need to be monitored, encouraged and assisted to play an active role in their pursuit to achieve their education and career objectives. Student Survey Results Of some 206 students who responded to the survey, 52% were female and 48% were male students. By classification, 10% were freshmen, 30% sophomore, 37% junior and 23% senior students. In terms of general fields of study, 68% majored in business and economics and 32% in other areas, including arts and sciences, education and engineering (Table 2).

These figures suggest that the survey represents a balanced coverage on gender, student classification, and various fields of study. Magnitude of Student Academic and Related Problems: Of 154 who sought assistance, 52% were female and 48% were male students. By classification, 9% were freshmen, 30% sophomore, 37% junior and 25% were senior students (Table 3). The data in the Table is indicative of the fact that the number of problems faced by students generally declined from freshman to senior year of their study.

Of 52 students who did not seek assistance, 52% were female and 48% were male students. By classification, 17% were freshmen, 30% junior, 37% sophomore and 19% senior students. A total of 56% who did not seek help were junior and senior students. The reasons indicated for not seeking assistance are that 19% did not have any problems, 17% did not have time to seek assistance, 19% did not know the availability of assistance, 14% did not believe such assistance would be useful, and 15% indicated a combination of the above factors (Table 4).

Student Efforts to Seek Assistance: Out of 206 students who sought assistance, 60% consulted with their academic advisors and 30% with course instructors or respective departments. Only 4% indicated to have sought assistance with the University Center for Success (Table 5). Student Evaluation of Assistance Effectiveness: Of 154 students who sought help, 72% indicated that the assistance they were offered was effective resulting in grade improvements, enhanced self-confidence, remaining in major for the better, and changing major for the better.

However, 28% indicated that the assistance they received was not effective at all (Table 6). Student Preference for Advising and Monitoring Services: Of 206 survey respondents, 147 (71%) indicated their preference for student monitoring and counseling services at school/college level (as opposed to counseling at the university level); and 92% indicated that they would seek assistance more often if such services were available at school/college level (Table 7).

The Case for Academic Monitoring and Advising Center The findings of this study reveal that relatively low grades and high failure rates were maintained by upper level undergraduate students with the possibility of marketability problems. The findings further show that 28% of survey respondents said the assistance services they received were not effective. Another 28% of the respondents, of which 56% were juniors and seniors, did not seek help to resolve their academic and related problems.

In addition, 71% of respondents indicated their preference for a school-level assistance services, and the overwhelming majority (92%) said they would seek help more often if such services were available at the school level. It follows that a school-specific academic monitoring and advisement center (AMAC), with a comprehensive agenda for student advisement and counseling, will be effective in improving student academic performance and marketability.

The need for the AMAC is underscored by other studies. The main problems affecting student academic performance include inadequate background, working long hours, lack of time to study and seek advice, lack of time management skills, bad study habits and skills, and lack of self-confidence. Many students are also faced with various impediments in their pursuit of higher education and career objectives, including financial problems, family responsibilities, and social and extracurricular activities.

Some of these activities do not only take away from the time needed for sleeping, attending class and studying, but they also cause considerable stress resulting in negative effects on academic performance as measured in terms of GPA (Womble 2001). The results of a survey of 239 university students enrolled in business and economics courses at North Carolina A State University indicated that most students did not have sufficient time to read the textbook and study, and that their absence from class was work related.

The majority (56 %) of the students stated that they could not take lecture notes while listening, and 29 % said they could not understand the lecture (Norales and Addus 2003). Kelly et al (2001) classified college students into short sleepers (individuals who slept six or fewer hours a day), average sleepers (individuals with seven or hours of sleep a day), and long sleepers (individuals sleeping nine or more hours a day). They found that the individuals who represented long sleepers reported higher GPAs than the first two groups.

Many students are admitted to a university as a result of their performance in examinations that do not demand the same preparation levels required to succeed in higher education. Thus, one of the main factors affecting the academic performance of college and university students is the lack of adequate preparation skills (Beswick and Ramsden 1987). Entwistle et al (1989) studied the academic performance of electrical engineering students and found that low course grades were associated with inadequate study skills, and that many students had not established adequate independent study strategies required to succeed in higher education.

Eikeland & Manger (1992) looked into factors affecting student achievement, especially those factors related to high failure and dropout rates. The findings showed that organized study habits had a positive impact on self confidence during the students' first semester, but such study habits did not have a direct effect on grades until as late as their fourth semester in college. In a survey of close to 350,000 students attending four-year public and private colleges, over 70 items related to the students' educational experiences on the survey instrument were grouped into 12 factors. 1) The survey results indicated that out of these factors, public college/university students rated academic advising as the most important aspect of their educational experiences. Private college/university students rated academic advising second to only instructional effectiveness in importance. When students were asked to rate five items (2) comprised academic advising, both public and private college/university students rated the academic advisor's approachability and the academic advisor's knowledge about major requirements as strengths--meaning most important and most satisfying (Noel-Levitz 2003).

In general, the success or failure in higher education are not explained by the student attributes or faculty teaching efficiency in isolation, but by the complex interactions between students and the learning environments they experience (Entwistle 1990). Thus, students are in need of comprehensive advisement, counseling and support services including time management, stress management, efficient study style, habits and skills, reading, writing, and lecture note taking skills, and other support services.

These must help students enhance their capacity to master the relevant subject, self confidence, verbal and written communication, academic performance, and to be competitive and productive members of the community. Academic Monitoring and Advising Center The findings of this study, along with the discussion of relevant literature, suggest that a school-specific AMAC, with a comprehensive agenda for student advisement and counseling, will be effective in improving student academic performance and marketability.

The primary purpose of the AMAC is to enhance student academic performance and produce marketable graduates by providing extended assistance and guidance to students in academic activities and related areas. At North Carolina A State University there are university-wide student support services, including the Center for Student Success (which is focused on student retention) and school-level academic assistant services. In addition, there are programs which are designed to mentor students with high academic standing, in collaboration with potential employers, to prepare them for the real world work environment upon graduation.

However, many students who for various reasons fail to perform to their potential levels deserve to be uplifted through a similar program provided by the AMAC. Compared with university-wide academic counseling services available for students, the AMAC will be more effective for needy students can be given individual and unique attention suited to their specific needs by their respective schools. In addition to regular advisement provided by academic advisors, the AMAC will provide counseling services for students who fail to reach a minimum GPA of 2. 0 during each semester. To start with, such students will be able to discuss issues regarding specific courses and their course loads with an advisor from the AMAC, and receive advice on how to successfully manage their time and handle their course loads. Also, the AMAC if necessary, can suggest changes in course, course loads and schedule to help the students balance their time between school and work. As mentioned above, one of the biggest problems that many students have is lack of time and time management skills.

If this problem is solved early, students will be able to maintain a more marketable GPA. The AMAC will continuously monitor students and evaluate their grades throughout each semester to insure that these students continue to do well in the school, and graduate within a reasonable period of time. Students who need assistance must be identified at the appropriate time and be given intensive advice and counseling. It will maintain a data base for all students in the School of Business and Economics with an overall GPA of 2. 0 or less. The data can be collected from student applications, academic records, and surveys (Seidman, 1996). The AMAC will coordinate its activities with university programs designed to provide remedial services to students with deficient backgrounds. It will refer students to other departments and and University support services for problems outside its responsibilities. Such intensive intervention will likely help not only improve academic performance, but also retain students and enable them to graduate with decent grades.

Student participation in the AMAC's program shall enhance their capabilities to improve their academic standing through sound advice and counseling which will positively influence their attitude toward learning and grades, time management skills and study habits. The AMAC will further facilitate development of university policies and programs designed to overcome academic deficiencies and encourage students to stay in school and achieve their academic and career objectives.

Conclusions Academic advising is a very important aspect of students' educational experiences in higher education. In order to enhance teaching and learning effectiveness, higher education institutions must listen to their students unique needs and priorities by assessing assistance services available to students. The results of such assessments can be used to develop targeted action plans for serving specific student population.

The results of the analyses of data obtained from the School of Business and Economics grade reports and a survey of students enrolled in business and economics courses at North Carolina A State University, along with other relevant literature, imply that many college students need a school-specific academic monitoring and advisement services at an early stage of their college career. It is apparent that it becomes difficult, if not impossible, for junior and senior students to make meaningful grade improvements due to the short span of time available to them during their last years of study before graduation.

This may pose a serious marketability problem for some of the graduates of these programs with low grades. In the real world of ever increasing globalization and more competitive job market environments, college students need to acquire higher skills and GPAs. The proposed AMAC is certainly a first step to guide needy students in this direction. References Beswick, D. and Ramsden, P, (1987). How to Promote Learning with Understanding. Working Paper 87:1. Melbourne: Center for the Study of Higher Education, University of Melbourne. Eikeland, O. J. and Manger, T. (1992).

Why Students Fail During Their First University Semesters. International Review of Education 38(5), 489-503. Entwistle, N. J. (1990). How Students Learn and Why They Fail. Paper Presented at Conference on Talent and Teaching, University of Bergen. Entwistle, N. J. , Hoursell, D. , Macaulay, C. , Situnayake, G. and Tait, H. (1989). Success and Failure in Electrical Engineering Courses in Scotland. Summary of a Report to the SED. Edinburgh: Department of Education and Center for Teaching, Learning and Assessment. University of Edinburgh. Fielding, G. J. (1985). Transportation Education, Part Two.

Report of Joint Conference, Eno Foundation Board of Directors and Board of Consultants. Transportation Quarterly, 39(2), 207-233. Kelly, W. E. , Kelly, K. E. and Clanton, R. C. (others) (2001). "The Relationship between Sleep length and Grade-Point-Average among College Students," College Student Journal. Noel-Levitz Research (2003). "Academic Advising Highly Important to Students," www. noellevitz. com. Norales, Francisca O. and Addus, Abdussalam A. (2003). "University Students' Learning Efforts," Texas Business and Technology Educators Association Journal, Vol.

VII, No. 1. Seidman, A. (1996). Retention revisited: R = E, ID + E & In, Iv. Journal of College Student Retention. 71(4), 18-20. Wiley, III, Ed (1993). Re-Emphasizing Teaching. Black Issues in Higher Education. Womble, Laura P (2001). "The Impact of Stress Factors on College Students' Academic Performance," Working Paper, University of North Carolina, Charlotte, N. C. ABDUSSALAM A. ADDUS Associate Professor DAVID CHEN Associate Professor ANWAR S. KHAN Professor Emeritus Department of Economics and Transportation/Logistics North Carolina A State University Notes 1) the factors are: academic advising, campus climate, campus Life, campus Support Services, concern for the Individual, instructional Effectiveness, recruitment and financial aid effectiveness, registration effectiveness, responsiveness to diverse population, safety and security, service excellence, and student centeredness. (2) the items are: the academic advisor's approachability, the academic advisor's knowledge about major requirements, the academic advisor's concern about the student's success as an individual, the academic advisor's assistance to set goals and work toward, and the clearness and reasonableness of major requirements.

Table 1 Grade Distribution of Students in the School of Business and Economics by Classification, Fall 1998 Grade Range Classification Freshman Sophomore Junior No. % No. % No. % 3. 50-4. 00 20 6 46 19 20 10 3. 00-3. 49 26 7 44 18 32 16 2. 50-2. 99 45 13 62 25 45 23 2. 25-2. 49 33 9 33 13 33 17 2. 00-2. 24 37 10 28 11 34 18 Below 2. 00 200 55 35 14 31 16

Total 361 100 248 100 195 100 Chi-square: 278. 38 * Grade Range Classification Senior All No. % No. % 3. 50-4. 00 18 7 104 10 3. 00-3. 49 42 17 144 13 2. 50-2. 99 90 35 242 24 2. 25-2. 49 47 18 146 14 2. 00-2. 24 44 17 143 13 Below 2. 00 14 6 280 26 Total 255 100 1059 100 Chi-square: 278. 38 * Note: * Statistically significant at 5 percent probability level.

Source: School of Business and Economics, NC A&T State University. Table 2 Profile of Survey Respondents Item Frequency Percent Gender (n = 206): Male 99 48. 1 Female 107 51. 9 Classification (n = 206): Freshman 21 10. 2 Sophomore 61 29. 6 Junior 77 37. 4 Senior 47 22. 8 Major Area Unit (n = 206): Business and Economics 140 68. 0 Other Areas * 66 32. * Include Arts and Science, Education, and Engineering. Table 3 Distribution of Number Problems for Students who Sought Assistance * (n = 154) Classification Number of Problems and Gender One Two Three Four Five Six Total Plus Classification: Freshman 4 1 3 2 1 2 13 Sophomore 16 4 7 9 8 2 46 Junior 14 14 12 6 4 7 57 Senior 6 7 14 7 3 1 38

Total 40 26 36 24 16 12 154 Gender: Male 19 15 15 11 8 6 74 Female 21 13 19 13 8 6 80 Total 40 26 36 24 16 12 154 * Problems include adding/dropping courses, choosing major, changing major, improving grades, time management, internship opportunities, personal problems which affect academic performance. Table 4 Distribution of students who did not Seek Assistance (n = 52) frequency Percent of Total Classification:

Freshman 9 17. 3 Sophomore 14 29. 9 Junior 19 36. 5 Senior 10 19. 3 Total 52 100. 0 Gender: Male 25 48. 1 Female 27 51. 9 Total 52 100. 0 Reason for not Seeking: Did not have problems 10 19. Did not have time 9 17. 3 Did not know availability of assistance 10 19. 2 Did not believe it is useful 7 13. 5 Combination of last three 8 15. 4 Other reasons 8 15. 4 Total 52 100. 0 Table 5 Student Efforts to Seek Assistance for Academic Problems (n = 154) Assistance sought from Frequency Percent Academic Advisor 89 59. 7 Department/Course instructor 44 29. University Center for Success 6 4. 0 SOBE resource Lab 3 2. 0 University Counseling Service 3 2. 0 Career Counseling 2 1. 4 Financial Aid 2 1. 4 Table 6 Student evaluation of Effectiveness of Assistance Sought (n = 149) Item frequency Percent Grade improved 13 8. 7 Enhanced self-confidence 4 2. 7 Remained in major 15 10. 1 Changed major for better 16 10. 7 Two or more of above 60 40. 3

No effect 41 27. 5 Table 7 Student Preference for Counseling/Monitoring Services Location (n = 206) Item Frequency Percent Prefer student Counseling at school level Yes 147 71. 3 No 44 21. 4 Indifferent 15 7. 3 Would seek assistance more often if Available at school/college level) Yes 92 44. 7 No 15 7. Not sure 45 21. 8 Indifferent 54 26. 2 Gale Copyright: Copyright 2007 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved. Economic Scene Colleges Are Failing in Graduation Rates Top of Form Bottom of Form • Share By DAVID LEONHARDT Published: September 8, 2009 If you were going to come up with a list of organizations whose failures had done the most damage to the American economy in recent years, you’d probably have to start with the Wall Street firms and regulatory agencies that brought us the financial crisis.

From there, you might move on to Wall Street’s fellow bailout recipients in Detroit, the once-Big Three. Multimedia [pic] From the Most Selective Colleges, More Graduates Related The College Dropout Boom Economix: Which Colleges Are Doing Their Job? Reader Responses: Failing Colleges Readers’ Comments Share your thoughts and read responses to readers' comments from David Leonhardt on the Economix blog. • Read All Comments (113) » But I would suggest that the list should also include a less obvious nominee: public universities.

At its top levels, the American system of higher education may be the best in the world. Yet in terms of its core mission — turning teenagers into educated college graduates — much of the system is simply failing. Only 33 percent of the freshmen who enter the University of Massachusetts, Boston, graduate within six years. Less than 41 percent graduate from the University of Montana, and 44 percent from the University of New Mexico. The economist Mark Schneider refers to colleges with such dropout rates as “failure factories,” and they are the norm.

The United States does a good job enrolling teenagers in college, but only half of students who enroll end up with a bachelor’s degree. Among rich countries, only Italy is worse. That’s a big reason inequality has soared, and productivity growth has slowed. Economic growth in this decade was on pace to be slower than in any decade since World War II — even before the financial crisis started. So identifying the causes of the college dropout crisis matters enormously, and a new book tries to do precisely that. It is called “Crossing the Finish Line,” and its findings are based on the records of about 200,000 students at 68 colleges.

The authors were able to get their hands on that data because two of them are pillars of the education establishment: William Bowen (an economist and former Princeton president) and Michael McPherson (an economist and former Macalester College president). For all the book’s alarming statistics, its message is ultimately uplifting — or at least invigorating. Yes, inadequate precollege education is a problem. But high schools still produce many students who have the skills to complete college and yet fail to do so. Turning them into college graduates should be a lot less difficult than fixing all of American education. We could be doing a lot better with college completion just by working on our colleges,” as Robert Shireman, an Education Department official who has read an early version of the book, says. Congress and the Obama administration are now putting together an education bill that tries to deal with the problem. It would cancel about $9 billion in annual government subsidies for banks that lend to college students and use much of the money to increase financial aid. A small portion of the money would be set aside for promising pilot programs aimed at lifting the number of college graduates. All in all, the bill would help.

But it won’t solve the system’s biggest problems — the focus on enrollment rather than completion, the fact that colleges are not held to account for their failures. “Crossing the Finish Line” makes it clear that we can do better. • The first problem that Mr. Bowen, Mr. McPherson and the book’s third author, Matthew Chingos, a doctoral candidate, diagnose is something they call under-matching. It refers to students who choose not to attend the best college they can get into. They instead go to a less selective one, perhaps one that’s closer to home or, given the torturous financial aid process, less expensive.

About half of low-income students with a high school grade-point average of at least 3. 5 and an SAT score of at least 1,200 do not attend the best college they could have. Many don’t even apply. Some apply but don’t enroll. “I was really astonished by the degree to which presumptively well-qualified students from poor families under-matched,” Mr. Bowen told me. They could have been admitted to Michigan’s Ann Arbor campus (graduation rate: 88 percent, according to College Results Online) or Michigan State (74 percent), but they went, say, to Eastern Michigan (39 percent) or Western Michigan (54 percent).

If they graduate, it would be hard to get upset about their choice. But large numbers do not. You can see that in the chart with this column. In effect, well-off students — many of whom will graduate no matter where they go — attend the colleges that do the best job of producing graduates. These are the places where many students live on campus (which raises graduation rates) and graduation is the norm. Meanwhile, lower-income students — even when they are better qualified — often go to colleges that excel in producing dropouts. “It’s really a waste,” Mr. Bowen says, “and a big problem for the country. As the authors point out, the only way to lift the college graduation rate significantly is to lift it among poor and working-class students. Instead, it appears to have fallen somewhat since the 1970s. What can be done? Money is clearly part of the answer. Tellingly, net tuition has no impact on the graduation rates of high-income students. Yet it does affect low-income students. All else equal, they are less likely to make it through a more expensive state college than a less expensive one, the book shows. Conservatives are wrong to suggest affordability doesn’t matter.

But they are right that more money isn’t the whole answer. Higher education today also suffers from a deep cultural problem. Failure has become acceptable. Students see no need to graduate in four years. Doing so, as one told the book’s authors, is “like leaving the party at 10:30 p. m. ” Graduation delayed often becomes graduation denied. Administrators then make excuses for their graduation rates. And policy makers hand out money based on how many students a college enrolls rather than on what it does with those students. There is a real parallel here to health care.

We pay doctors and hospitals for more care instead of better care, and what do we get? More care, even if in many cases it doesn’t make us healthier. In education, the incentives can be truly perverse. Because large lecture classes are cheaper for a college than seminars, freshmen are cheaper than upperclassmen. So a college that allows many of its underclassmen to drop out may be helping its bottom line. If you look closely, you can still find reasons for optimism. A few colleges, like the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, have intensive programs that have raised graduation rates.

The State of West Virginia has begun tying student aid to academic progress, and graduation rates there have risen. Washington Monthly magazine has published a new college ranking based in part on graduation rates. (Kudos to Penn State, among others. ) When students fill out an online form for federal financial aid, the Obama Education Department now informs them of the graduation rate at any college in which they express interest. But an enormous amount of work remains, and it’s hard to think of any work that’s more important to the American economy.

Last year, even in the grip of a recession that has spared no group of workers, the gap between what a college graduate earned and what everyone else earned reached a record. Workers with bachelor’s degrees made 54 percent more on average than those who attended college but didn’t finish, according to the Labor Department. Fifty-four percent — just think about how that adds up over a lifetime. And then think about how many students never cross the college finish line. E-mail: leonhardt@nytimes. com Public blames students for their failure at college By Eric Gorski Associated Press Published: Monday, Dec. 3 2010 12:39 a. m. MST | | | | | | | | | | | | |Share | |Twitter |Pinterest | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | |0 | |0 |0 | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | [pic] • View 2 photos » Summary The public pins most of the blame for poor college graduation rates on students and their parents and gives a pass to colleges, government officials and others, a new Associated Press-Stanford University poll shows.

Nov. 16, 2011 [pic] The public pins most of the blame for poor college graduation rates on students and their parents and gives a pass to colleges, government officials and others, a new Associated Press-Stanford University poll shows. All sectors of American higher education received high marks for quality. That extends to for-profit colleges, despite recent criticism of dubious recruiting tactics, high student loan default rates and other problems at some schools. "As is often the case, the truth lies somewhere in between," said William A. Sederburg, Utah's Commissioner of Higher Education. We know higher education campuses can really do a lot more to improve retention. ... It is also true that a lot of students show up on campus without direction in their lives and without focus on what they want to do. Those are students that are most likely to drop out. " But a belief that students are most at fault for graduation rates may be a troubling sign for reformers who have elevated college completion to the forefront of higher education policy debates and pushed colleges to fix the problem, said Michael Kirst, professor emeritus of education and business administration at Stanford. The message is, 'Students, you had your shot at college and failed and it's your fault, not the college,'" Kirst said. When asked where the blame lies for graduation rates at public four-year colleges, 7 in 10 said students shouldered either a great deal or a lot of it, and 45 percent felt that way about parents. Others got off relatively easy: Anywhere between 25 percent and 32 percent of those polled blamed college administrators, professors, teachers, unions, state education officials and federal education officials. Taking a closer look at the numbers:

Republicans are likelier than Democrats to blame federal officials for today's college graduation rates — 34 percent of Republicans and 25 percent of Democrats point at them. There's a small partisan difference on the student blame question: Seventy-seven percent of Republicans and 68 percent of Democrats fault students heavily. Minorities are more prone than whites to blame professors and teachers for college graduation rates, with 40 percent of minorities but just 29 percent of whites doing so. Fifty-seven percent of minorities blame parents for college graduation rates, while just 40 percent of whites do.

Sara Goldrick-Rab, assistant professor of educational policy studies and sociology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, said the results are deeply troubling and mean elite colleges and universities have succeeded in diverting blame from themselves. "Those supporting the completion agenda need to push back — hard — and emphasize the role colleges play in supporting or undermining student success," she said. Such a push back may not be necessary in Utah, however, judging from Sederburg's attitude: "It's clearly not just students' faults. I think we have a significant role to play. After long emphasizing access to college, higher education policy debates have shifted only recently to focusing on getting students through. The Obama administration has called for the United States to again lead the world in number of college graduates by 2020. The goal in Utah is to increase retention rates by 8 percent on average over the next decade, Sederburg said. The Utah System of Higher Education's 2020 Plan for Higher Education, found at www. higheredutah2020. org, contemplates several strategies to increase retention — such as enhancing advising and intervention advising if a student is off track to graduate.

Getting students into the right courses is also important. Midterm feedback may give students a chance to correct their trajectory. "It's a different approach if you are a Salt Lake Community College than if you are at the University of Utah," said Cameron Martin, the office of the commissioner for higher education's associate commissioner for economic development. Each institution has to look at its strategies to see what works for them. BYU, for example, encourages students to graduate by providing a clear map for each program of study. It also tries to help students understand what the credit limits are to enter each program. If students are in danger of exceeding the appropriate amount of credits and have yet to declare a major, our University Advisement office will reach out to them to help provide further direction," said BYU spokesman Todd Hollingshead. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Lumina Foundation and others have directed money and attention to states and colleges to improve completion rates, and several states are taking action. Stan Jones, president of Complete College America, which championed such efforts, disagreed that the poll spells trouble for reform. This will play out like the high school dropout issue," he said. "The more it becomes a subject of public discussion the more advances we will make on confronting the college dropout problem. " Just over half of first-time students who entered college in 2003-04 had not earned a degree or credential within six years, the Education Department reported recently. That's slightly worse than students who started in 1995-96. Experts caution it is tricky to measure success and compare graduation rates because today's older, less-traditional college tudent population takes more time to finish school and is harder to track. The AP-Stanford poll found most people were happy with the quality of higher education in their states. Despite severe budget cuts and spiraling tuition at many public four-year colleges, those schools received the highest marks: Seventy-four percent in the poll called them excellent or good. But others institutions got strong marks, too: Four-year private nonprofit colleges (71 percent), two-year public colleges (69 percent), private for-profit colleges (66 percent) and private for-profit trade schools (57 percent).

That's a rare glimpse at public opinion about for-profit colleges, which have been fighting proposed regulations that would that would cut off federal aid. The poll also found overwhelming agreement that there is a link between the nation's prosperity and the quality of its education system. Overall, 88 percent say economic prosperity and quality education are closely entwined. Nearly 80 percent said that having all Americans graduate from a two- or four-year college would help the economy.

Yet most in the poll are unwilling to invest more in the nation's school systems in order to obtain that economic payoff — just 42 percent favor raising taxes to pay for better education. The poll was conducted September 23-30 by Abt SRBI Inc. It involved interviews on landline and cellular telephones with 1,001 adults nationwide, and has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3. 9 percentage points. Stanford University's participation was made possible by a grant from the Gates Foundation. Contributing: Michael De Groote, Deseret News, and Alan Fram of the AP