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ASU battling low graduation, retention rates

Saturday, Sept. 1, 2012 5:25 PM
Last updated Sunday, Sept. 2, 2012 2:33 AM
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When Paul Sullivan en­tered Augusta State Uni­versity in 2002, finishing a degree in four years was his last priority.

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Students wait during Augusta State University's spring 2011 commencement ceremony. In 2010, only 25 percent of ASU students completed a bachelor's degree in six years and only 7 percent finished in four.   FILE/STAFF
FILE/STAFF
Students wait during Augusta State University's spring 2011 commencement ceremony. In 2010, only 25 percent of ASU students completed a bachelor's degree in six years and only 7 percent finished in four.

“When I first got there, I wasn’t ready,” Sullivan said. “I wasn’t responsible enough. My first year and a half was a wash. I think I took two credits that year.”

It took seven years for Sullivan to complete a bachelor’s degree in English as he struggled to see the importance of an education while fighting distractions in the town where he grew up. He was out of school and working at a pizza place when he realized he didn’t want to make minimum wage for the rest of his life.

As officials work to consolidate Augusta State and Georgia Health Sciences universities, they are attempting to address twin ills at ASU: a dismal graduation rate and falling enrollment. They acknowledge that eradicating those problems could be a lengthy process.

“What is more worrisome is those people who are lost completely from the system,” GHSU Provost Gretchen Caughman said. “They have put their time, money, whatever scholarships, as well as the resources of the institution and the state into a process, and they don’t really have the credential at the end.”

In 2010, only 25 percent of ASU students completed a bachelor’s degree within six years and only 7 percent finished in four. That’s compared with the 55.5 percent of students nationally and 47.5 percent in Georgia who finished within six years.

Carol Rychly, ASU’s vice president for academic affairs, said the low graduation rate is mostly a reflection of student demographics and a lack of intervention in the past. About 8 percent of students had academic records that did not meet the school’s standards but were still accepted based on ASU’s open admissions policy, Rychly said.

ASU also has a large number of nontraditional commuter students, many of whom juggle academics with raising families or full-time jobs. These students can struggle to make school a priority when other obligations come first.

In the future, Rychly and Caughman said, they want to see a shift in the type of student they accept to the consolidated university. Having traditional 18- to 22-year-old students who come for the full college experience will raise the graduation rate and enrollment, they predict.

“We do see again the need to really attract the kind of student that would come with that four-year campus life experience in mind,” Caughman said.

Campus changes

In the past, students who were falling behind in credit hours or struggling academically did not receive help unless they asked.

The new university is considering making intervention mandatory through an “early alert system.” Under this program, an alert would be sent to students and their advisers after the first test they fail. Students would be required to attend remediation or study-skills classes to get back on track.

Caughman said officials also hope developments to the campus will enhance the college experience and attract more students. Initial figures for this semester show a drop in student enrollment for the third year in a row, down about 240 students from fall 2011 and 420 from 2010.

Currently, almost all of ASU’s students are from Georgia, and most live within driving distance of the campus, Rychly said. Part of the growth strategy has to be dorms, dining facilities and student activity centers on campus.

“It is a beautiful campus, (but) it is still a commuter campus,” Caughman said.

Increasing graduation rates is not impossible and must be a priority for ASU and other schools with low retention rates, said James Applegate, the vice president for program development at the Lumina Foundation, a private organization focused on expanding educational access to students after high school.

Low graduation rates affect a school’s reputation, reduce the viability of an educated workforce and drain the resources of students who pay for degrees they never finish, he said.

Intervention

In the past five years, several U.S. universities have made efforts to push more students to graduation. They did it through record-keeping, by tracking which students are struggling and when – whether in the first year or the first semester.

Schools also must take the initiative to provide help without the student having to seek it.

“Otherwise it’s like you’re throwing darts at a dartboard in a bar where the lights are out,” Applegate said. “You can’t just wait for students to show up at somebody’s door to ask for help. Most of the schools that are succeeding are combining that data with an intrusive advising system.”

Rychly said the new university is planning incentive programs for students to do well and finish. In one pipeline program, students who complete a curriculum at a high level are “guaranteed positions in some of the medical fields that are unique to our new university,” she said.

Officials are also planning for more interaction between medical research faculty and undergraduate staff, which was done at a minimum before because financial aid rules prohibit students from being enrolled at both universities.

Staff will also reach out to Richmond County high school students to encourage dual enrollment so they have a head start on credits when they enter college as freshmen.

“We want to continue to serve our local cohorts and provide the opportunities that they have been enjoying and been accustomed to,” Caughman said. “But we have got to draw in a different market as well. And to do that we have to have freshman dorms. And we have to have a whole campus life experience that, frankly, the students and their parents expect.”

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Little Lamb
47911
Points
Little Lamb 09/01/12 - 04:50 pm
5
2
Name

A name less hideous than "Regents" would help attract quality students, too.

Little Lamb
47911
Points
Little Lamb 09/01/12 - 04:53 pm
3
0
Seven

Reading the first three paragraphs, one would suppose that Paul Sullivan graduated in 2009 or 2010. I wonder what kind of salary he is making with a bachelors degree in English?

kiwiinamerica
961
Points
kiwiinamerica 09/01/12 - 05:16 pm
0
0
Hey.......I've got a great
Unpublished

Hey.......I've got a great idea! Follow me here!

We'll take the name of college which has non existent entry criteria, abysmal graduation rates and falling enrollment and we'll name the state medical school after it!!

We'll call it........um.......The University of Augusta!

Whaddya say gang?? Is that a great idea or what?

dstewartsr
20389
Points
dstewartsr 09/01/12 - 05:27 pm
9
1
"The non-traditional"

...students are not ASU's problem. Whoever wrote they're dragging the university down is ignorant of facts. Non-traditional students DO take longer to graduate, but they're working, raising families, paying their own way. In other words, adults; they're not, as these sorry apologists seem to imply, loafing around, skipping class and hanging out for five or six years on someone else's dime- or never-to-be-repaid student loans. As a group, they are the best of the student body; prepared, serious and goal oriented.

ASU or Great Recession University as it's to be, admits the unqualified, and then cannot keep them in the classrooms to be taught by unqualified TA's whose response to every question --on the rare occasion they take one-- is "I'll get back to you on that." And don't. There is a total lack of the 'college experience' of campus life, life in the dorms which is an important but unacknowledged and unwritten part of the societal education of higher leqarning.

People have suggested uses for the K-Mart on Washington; just move ASU/GRU there; it's nothing but a storefront operation already.

John Locke
345
Points
John Locke 09/01/12 - 05:42 pm
5
0
Anti - Nontraditional Student U

For years I've been associated with ASU and from my experience at other universities as a student and teacher, I witnessed success (financial and academic) for both students and the university at those that focused on the non-traditional adult student, those that are mature, focused and desire to get an education. The comments by the ASU/GHSU officials are ignorant at best and reflect a snobbish attitude that somehow 18 year olds are going to be the answer to their problem. GET a CLUE -- this is not UGA or GA Southern. Most of the academically talented 18 year olds leave Augusta, most of them recently going to Southern. The reason why non-traditional students can't complete degrees is because ASU never offers the upper level courses they need to complete their programs. I know so many that make it to junior status, then have to transfer to an institution that accomodates their schedule. Then they graduate with a degree from that new institution. ASU is nothing more than a starting block for most and is fooling itself to think it will ever be any more UNLESS it changes its focus from 18 year olds to 34 year olds. The place would be rolling in dough and graduation rates if they adapted to the student and not the other way around. They are fools if they think otherwise.

palmetto1008
9782
Points
palmetto1008 09/01/12 - 06:03 pm
2
3
A college degree is much more
Unpublished

A college education in any field is much more than training for a job or how much money one will make, little lamb. ASU is not a tech school.

redapples
672
Points
redapples 09/01/12 - 06:49 pm
6
1
Interventions? That's part

Interventions? That's part of what's wrong with our society. Nobody should fail. Everybody should win. If people don't realize how much they want an education, let's make them realize it. Let's offer incentives. Let's make it easier on them. Let's dumb it down if we can get away with it. What do employers think about this reasoning? What "interventions" do employers offer when employees don't show up to work on time, take too many breaks, etc?

madgerman
236
Points
madgerman 09/01/12 - 07:49 pm
0
0
I think that the biggest
Unpublished

I think that the biggest [problem facing the university is the appropriate name. I must assume that conc;lusion because the management at the school are focused on that problem. And given what we pay top management, I am sure they are prioritizing things as they see them. Maybe we need some new management that knows what priorities are and how to arrive at them. But that won't happen because they are good ole boys or girls and this is the south where social climbing is everythiing.

nevertoolate
291
Points
nevertoolate 09/01/12 - 08:02 pm
8
0
Proud ASU grad

I graduated from ASU in 2006. I was 42 years old and I was an Army wife. I have attended 4 different colleges due to moving from place to place in support of my (late) husband's military career. When I graduated, I was working 12 hour swing shifts at our nearby nuke power plant, and it took me a total of 14 years from start (Indiana University) to finish (Augusta State University). I also raised 5 boys while I was at it...as a non-traditional student at ASU, I can CONFIRM that they are NOT "adult friendly", and it was those of us working a full time job, raising families, paying taxes and attending night school who graduated, most with excellent GPAs. There is no failure on the student's part, just the failure of an institution that refuses to recognize its greatest asset, their adult students.

Little Lamb
47911
Points
Little Lamb 09/01/12 - 08:21 pm
7
0
Thank you

Thank you, nevertoolate, for your inspiring and warm story. You are absolutely correct that Augusta State should encourage and focus on the non-traditional student. It is the 18-year-old not-qualified-for-college student who should be shut out by high admission standards, and the older students should have access to the upper class courses they need when they need them (via DVD if necessary). Augusta State can set up their own criteria for calculating graduation rates for the non-traditional students. But their admitting students who have no business on a college campus is their shame and weakness. Azziz has not yet figured out what he's going to do about that. He's hosting too many parties at his taxpayer-furnished mansion to worry about that level of detail.

Little Lamb
47911
Points
Little Lamb 09/01/12 - 09:03 pm
1
1
Food for thought

Don't fail to read this thread provided by Tracey McManus and Tom Corwin for some thoughtful information and some good comments:

Remedial Courses

rebellious
21408
Points
rebellious 09/01/12 - 09:43 pm
7
1
ASU, where is that

I have never heard of Augusta State University! Where is it? Maine? What else is Augusta got going for it? I mean, like, is it cool? Now if they had said Georgia Regents University, well that would have been different. I would have immediately know it was less than 5 miles from Regency Mall. I think I read it is in Regentsville.

And a low graduation rate? Caughman and Rychley need to be sure their names, or titles, don't get changed shortly by the "Eyebrow".

Oh and here is how to improve the situation...."In the future, Rychly and Caughman said, they want to see a shift in the type of student they accept to the consolidated university. Having traditional 18- to 22-year-old students who come for the full college experience will raise the graduation rate and enrollment, they predict."

"And to do that we have to have freshman dorms. And we have to have a whole campus life experience that, frankly, the students and their parents expect.”

So Grandma and Grandpa, GI Bill, working people looking to improve thier education....need not apply. Taxpayers, look for the next landgrab. Got to have them dorms for the kidsters and outsiders.

But there I go getting all negative again. Lord, I apologize to the pigmies in New Guinea.

Martinez
154
Points
Martinez 09/01/12 - 09:48 pm
3
1
ASU success starts w/ RCBOE

While there are a handful of great schools in RC and a great number of very talented students, there are also schools pushing far less talented students through for the sake of graduate rates, funds, etc knowing those students have not meet the standards. Test scores recently showed one particular school with less then 10% passing the EOCT (state standard) in Math. If RCBOE doesn't produce college ready students who can meet or exceed State standards, ASU can't be expected to work miracles with those students 1 - 4 years later. If ASU wants to raise it's graduation rates, it must raise it's admission standards and yes, provide a traditional college environment that will attract students from outside this area too (dorms, campus life, etc.). That doesn't mean abandon the non-traditional students but if they want to gain the national recognition, they can't remain a commuter school with low graduation rates - no matter how agreeable or disagreeable the name.

jbenny2010
263
Points
jbenny2010 09/01/12 - 10:03 pm
5
0
This is what happens when you

This is what happens when you take two entirely different universities with different functions and missions, and try to turn them into Emory University or Mercer University. I could understand merging GA Southern with MCG much more than with Augusta State. Not that it would be feasible, but just for the sake of argument.

Since Augusta State is a commuter school, it, of course, attracts a lot of older adult students. And I agree with the other posters that adults with responsibilities are much more serious about their education than the average teen. So, if you know that is your main demographic, make it work for adults. Schedule classes when they are needed, including evening classes. Put more classes online so that scheduling is less of an obstacle.

I think the excellent programs being offered at Augusta Tech are siphoning some students. Online degrees being offered by reputable universities such as GA Southern, Boston University, etc. are also causing some loss. Plus, having attended GA Southern for a summer certificate program, I found the campus to be beautiful, the dorms pretty nice, and the overall experience to be pretty positive. So if I were a teen deciding to go to school, I would probably choose UGA or GA Southern before ASU.

Changing the culture and demographics of a school doesn't happen overnight and I think this should have been taken into consideration before the issue of merging was even discussed. Graduation rates affect how schools are ranked nationally and if they want to get younger students, they are going to have to be a lot more competitive with the other GA universities. Otherwise, make it more convenient for the mature student and watch the rates rise.

class1
299
Points
class1 09/01/12 - 10:58 pm
4
0
The university needs to raise

The university needs to raise it standards for admission. Hopefully, it will never get to where the university is giving aways degrees like the high schools give aways their diplomas.

John Locke
345
Points
John Locke 09/01/12 - 11:08 pm
5
0
Inspiring Nevertoolate

And in spite of all the challenges and obstacles of life, you did it! Congratulations nevertoolate -- your inspiring story should be repeated by thousands of folks like you who are non-traditional (ie mature, dedicated, focused and more likely to complete the goal) than the 18 year old slackers. Building dorms is not going to either increase enrollment or guarantee graduation rates until the university realizes the demographic for success is/are adult students. Problem for ASU is the staff and faculty would have to work at night, which most don't want to do. At ASU students taking night classes have no access to the bookstore, food court, and other activities all of their fees are to provide. But the admins at ASU don't understand that - all of that occurs after 5 pm and they lock the doors at that time. Oh, good luck then anyone who comes to class at night if you can find one to take beyond the sophomore level. They are so screwed up they don't even know why.

MadeinAmerica
88
Points
MadeinAmerica 09/01/12 - 11:13 pm
4
1
Glad to see this being

Glad to see this being discussed. ASU's poor graduation rates have been mostly ignored or not known about for over 15yrs. But I would not be so quick to blame it all on poorly prepared students, part-time students, etc. Many college ready, full time students don't even make it through ASU. ASU is more concerned with offering enticing student social activities than providing a strong academic culture with high expectations for student success. They also offer relatively little student academic suport. Because of that lopsided set of priorities, many students unfortunately find themselves quickly performing poorly in the classroom and soon heading out the door. What a diservice to those students. Many other problems at ASU. For example, my brother-in-law dropped out of ASU after about 4-5 yrs because he could never get the classes he needed to graduate (they would only offer the classes every other year). He said he felt like no one there really cared about his situation. He never finished his degree, but has a good job now that has not much to do with his time wasted at ASU.

KSL
139775
Points
KSL 09/02/12 - 12:00 am
3
0
You people have your sights

You people have your sights set two low. Turn it into Mercer or Emory. Holding up GA State? Admittedly I am years away from college age. When I transferred from the Ivy League I attended to a school in GA to preserve the relationship I had with my spouse to be, I determined to make certain I was going to continue to get the education my father had intended I get when he did everything he could do to entice me to go north to start with. There was no just doing what I had to do to get by to make that A . I took every advantage I could to learn the most I could.

Disadvantages. My A 's and B 's transferred as C 's to this school. The resulting penalty was the extra time it took me to make it to the honor societies and the ultimate honor. But the transfer to preserve the relationship with my husband of 44 years as of last week was worth it.

KSL
139775
Points
KSL 09/02/12 - 12:06 am
5
0
I am all for non traditional

I am all for non traditional students. And if it takes them extra years to graduate, so be it. My husband taught at Augusta Tech and then at Aiken Tech when he was in his 20's. His non -traditional students were his best students.

CryoCyberTronics
392
Points
CryoCyberTronics 09/02/12 - 08:06 am
0
2
Are GRU Employees Good Enough To Attain Classes At New U

I think that this is someone on the GHSU who is  trying to discourage employees of the  consolidated university from taking classes at the university and earning a degree over a career while working at the school. After all GHSU/MCG is not a Harvard School of Law type of University where an employee can get a free  education. 

MCG has had family houses on campus four years. Those light brown apartments alone15th St. The complex located across the street from the Pain College  campus and across the street from the new building on Dent Street where Gilbert Manor was located, 

Benjamin Paine
233
Points
Benjamin Paine 09/02/12 - 08:12 am
3
1
Did you miss the obituary?

To all of those concerned about the non-traditional student, did you miss the announced death of ASU? When the Board of Regents announced the consolidation of ASU and GHSU and the stated goal became to miraculously create a comprehensive research university out of their parts, what they were really saying is ASU was dead.

Since then all of the focus in the news has been on the health care related programs (GHSU), building research (GHSU), transforming into a residential campus (opposite ASU), becoming highly selective (opposite of ASU), catering to traditional students (opposite ASU)...... Well you probably get the picture.

Is this good or bad? That really is not the point of this post, rather it is simply to state the obvious..... ASU is dead. Along with it, its mission to meet the local educational needs of access and providing educational opportunities for the nontraditional student died.

redapples
672
Points
redapples 09/02/12 - 08:12 am
2
0
Can anyone explain why the

Can anyone explain why the government has created a graduation rate formula (high school and college) where you only count positively toward the graduation rate if you complete within four years? Given this formula, if federal funding is tied to graduation rate, there will be fewer schools that would want commuter, adult students.

bentman
466
Points
bentman 09/02/12 - 08:14 am
2
0
“'When I first got there, I

“'When I first got there, I wasn’t ready,' Sullivan said. . . ."

Quit admitting these non-achievers. College admission is NOT a right, it is an achievement!!

wordwright
134
Points
wordwright 09/02/12 - 08:23 am
2
0
Statistics

Much of the bad press ASU is receiving is due to statistics, and the way the BOR "counts" students. Those successful students--traditional and non-traditional--are not counted in the success rate unless they finish their degrees in the 4 or 6 year range. The ASU success rate should be higher than it is because of this. Should colleges really be pushing students through to make their quota--sounds like high school to me.

How much taxpayer money is going to be spent on dorms and other perks to attract the 18-year-old?

Also, the BOR is pushing retention, progression, and graduation. To increase these levels, colleges are going to have to do lots of handholding of adults. Eighteen-year-olds are, after all, adults. As an employer, I don't want a lot of employees who have been coddled in college because they won't be coddled in the workplace--they'll be fired. That is the role that college has served in the past--those who really want a degree can get a college degree and those who are too lazy or incapable don't. The real world is not rec dept soccer where everyone gets a trophy.

freeradical
1144
Points
freeradical 09/02/12 - 08:36 am
2
0
Nothing wrong with leaving

Nothing wrong with leaving college for something better.

The underlying premise of the article is that it is primarily a negative

when someone quits college .

And they are right , today, it is a negative but not for the reasons they think.

I quit college for a career I am very happy in for the last couple dozen

years.

I did have the good fortune of being born at the right time when

opportunities were plentiful .

Quitting in the era I did was primarily a positive for those quitting.

That was a different time and people quit for much different reasons.

Today however young people see their older siblings still living in their

childhood bedrooms after going thru all the time & expense , with

nothing but bleak landscape & joblessness in front of them .

If the landscape ever changes college , along with everything, &

everyone else will benefit.

The race to become a country on par with Greece ,Italy ,etc ,

etc, tells me that the landscape may not change for a long time

to come. If ever.

scamp1
103
Points
scamp1 09/02/12 - 11:17 am
6
0
ASU mission and graduation rates

A main part of ASU's mission (the ASU that is dead now) was service to the community. The university knew easiest way to change graduation rates - raise admission standards and get rid of University College. But such an action would go entirely against the university's mission of service to the community. The second easiest way was to lower standards. ASU refused to do either.

At one graduation, President Bloodworth asked all the graduates to stand. Then he asked the ones to be seated who did not work at least 20 hours a week while getting their degree - few sat. Then he asked those graduates to be seated that did not work at least 40 hours a week while getting their degree to be seated. Only a few additional students sat. Most students at ASU worked full time. The statistics of university four and six year graduation rates do not include the student demographics or work schedules, nor do they include transfer rates. ASU worked on retention, but stayed loyal to its mission and would not compromise standards

Dan Rahn once said, MCG was a university that was hard to get into but easy to get out of, while ASU was a university that was easy to get into, but hard to get out of. The two institutions worked well together for Augusta and Georgia. The ill-planned and dictated combining, merging, or hostal taking-over (whatever the GRU mess is called) cannot maintain the integrity of either institution. Everyone - especially Augusta - will loose.

KSL
139775
Points
KSL 09/02/12 - 11:24 am
3
0
Scamp, you nailed it.

Scamp, you nailed it.

CryoCyberTronics
392
Points
CryoCyberTronics 09/02/12 - 12:26 pm
1
1
Sooner Or Later GRU Will Have To Start A Football Program

A major part of a young adults on campus life  experience is the support of a football athletic program. A program in which Augusta Junior College, Augusta College, and through to the progression to Augusta State University Institution campus as we know it today.

All the times in the past when The Augusta School have been athletic conference league and with other universities who made a decision   to institute an athletic football program. The first time when Georgia Southern started it's football program. Imagine where The Augusta State University would have been it it had also started a football athletic program also. No saying that the program would have been a national power house or a  minor powerhouse such as Savannah State University. The same Savannah State University that played on national television yesterday and lost Oklahoma State University 88 to Zero. But you never know because there no collegiate athletic football program to speak in here in Augusta.  Remember the Quote "it's not wether you win or lose the game, it's how you play the game". Yeah that could have been Augusta University out there and even a different result.

Some say that a commuter school like Augusta State University could not ever play football. Well look at other commuter schools in Georgia who is now playing or who are planing to play football like Georgia State University, West Georgia University, and  Kennesaw State University. When they do that means that Augusta's University will be just that much farther behind. Some people will say at lease we have the best medical university in Georgia here in Augusta. Yeah that could be very true, but remember in order to have the best hearth care you need to have a lot of sick people...!!! 

In short all I'm saying is that what is needed  in order to be competitive with other school of similar size and culture for younger students  to get that on campus atmosphere  is a football athletic program  would be a great start.
 

twentieth century man
102
Points
twentieth century man 09/02/12 - 12:52 pm
3
0
questions

I still believe the prime mover for academic excellence a competitive student body. How can one expect the merged ASU-MCG to become a comprehensive university and world class "brand," when budgets are being cut and much of the student body is being remediated? It took years for Johns Hopkins and Duke to develop their "brands." The health care portion (ex-MCG) was relatively selective; now the student body is being diluted/overrun by remediating students. I hope the newly merged entity can maintain its identity as the University of Georgia System healthcare university.

CobaltGeorge
170122
Points
CobaltGeorge 09/02/12 - 12:57 pm
0
0
CryoCyberTronics

Sooner Or Later GRU Will Have To Start A Football Program

and what is your suggestion for a Mascot?

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