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Thursday, September 28, 2023


Group eyes grad rates

A growing number of UH students are remaining undeclared well into their upper-level years -†a trend some UH officials feel may be detrimental to student success and retention.

Studies conducted by the Enrollment Management Task Force suggest that students entering UH without a declared major fare significantly worse with regard to retention and graduation rates compared to undergraduate counterparts who have declared a major.

"I was very concerned when I looked at the time students were spending at UH," former UH Provost and psychology professor Donald Foss said. "I wanted to see how to improve the number of students graduating in a timely fashion."

Students at UH who have not declared a major are placed in the Academic Advising Center of UScholars, formerly known as University Studies Division.

Preliminary reports from the UH Office of Institutional Research show 4,736 undeclared students for this fall, a 14.67 percent increase from the 4,130 undeclared students in spring of 2008.

From Fall 2005 to Fall 2007, an average of 50.9 percent of UScholars students were freshmen, 29.4 percent were sophomores, 14.1 percent were juniors and 2.7 percent were seniors.

The four-year graduation rate average for students beginning in UScholars from 1996 to 2001 was 48.4 percent less than students who had an initial major declared.

The numbers spoke very clearly, forcing Foss to ask for alternatives.

"I challenge them to define a way to dramatically reduce the number of students in the Universal Studies Division," he said.

Task force members said one way to curb the ratio of undeclared students is to reduce the time they have to decide on a major.

The task force will propose a credit cap for undeclared students, meaning they must declare a major by the completion of 30 credit hours.

"The reason for the cap was that students are burning through hours," said David Mazella, chair of the Faculty Senate Educational Policies and Student Affairs Committee and a member of the task force. "The longer they spend without a major or with the wrong major the less likely they will graduate or graduate in a timely fashion."

University Studies freshman Anthony Hernandez said he was never sure when he should declare his major.

"I was unsure exactly when to declare it," Hernandez said. "If I had more information I would have. Nobody told me."

Researchers also compared UH to 15 other metropolitan research universities, including University of Alabama-Birmingham, University of Memphis and Arizona State University – Tempe.

UH showed lower results in each category, except in the number of undeclared students.

Categories compared in this trend were one-year retention rates, four-year graduation rates and six-year graduation rates.

University Studies freshman Austin Miller said he is retaking entry exam classes because of misevaluations and lack of options.

"I missed the Bauer School of Business entry exam," Miller said. "I took the class last semester and you couldn’t take the test. I didn’t know you had to do it through WebCT while you’re in the class."

Recommendations sent by the task force, including mandatory advising meetings for students, are expected to take effect before the semester’s end.

"There is a recommended timetable, hopefully sometime in December," Mazella said. "There are necessary phases, though."

One factor deemed responsible for the task force figures is UH’s lack of a generalized degree, which is an option for 80 percent of students attending the other tested metropolitan research universities.

A more generalized degree option is available at universities to help incoming students, who may be confused about which degree to choose, actively pursue a degree. Although the idea of a generalized degree has not been seriously considered, Foss said it may be worth incorporating into the UH System.

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