Faculty Senate takes on grad rates
UH President Renu Khator challenged those at Wednesday’s Faculty Senate meeting to stop making excuses about low graduation rates.
“I want to make sure we understand that student success is a no-excuse priority,” Khator said.
She helped explain this by putting the success of college students in a global perspective.
“The U.S. is one of two countries where this generation is going to be less educated than the previous generation,” Khator said.
She singled out 15 universities, which resemble UH in several ways, and compared their progress to that of UH in 2007.
She resisted the excuse that UH students have unusual financial needs. Khator dug deeper than surface level evidence and presented it to those in the room. For example, Khator said although UH received only 5 percent more in Pell Grants than San Diego State University, SDSU still had a 56.4 percent graduation rate, 13.7 percent higher than UH.
“That factor alone cannot keep us from higher graduation rates,” Khator said.
She also refuted the excuse that UH students arrive at the University unprepared for college. When compared to East Carolina’s estimated median SAT score of 1035, she said UH has no excuse to have an 11.8 percent lower graduation rate when its median SAT score is 1070.
“Sorry, I’m not buying that excuse,” Khator said.
She mentioned the accusation that UH has students from underrepresented minorities that graduate at a lower rate. She pointed out statistically across the board, blacks, Latinos, Native Americans, Asians and whites have extremely similar graduation rates.
“You can’t say that just because we are more diverse, that that’s the reason our graduation rate can’t be improved,” Khator said.
She also disproved the notion that UH can’t move forward without additional resources. When UH has 30 percent more full-time faculty and spends $3,751 more in educational expenditures than SDSU, Khator said, it is difficult to defend the gap between the schools’ graduation rates.
“If we want to be a better university, we’ve got to start putting our students first,” Khator said. “It’s about leadership, and that’s ours.”
Khator also laid out several other courses of action for those at the meeting to undertake to help UH reach its flagship destination.
“We are absolutely at the cusp (to reach flagship)” Khator said.
Though UH is succeeding in several areas such as research funds, endowments and aggregate research, Khator said there are still a few areas that need improvement.
She emphasized the need for more faculty awards. In 2008, UH was similar to seven other universities with only three awards. UH would have ranked in the top 50 Public Research Universities in 2008 with only eight faculty awards, Khator said.
“I know that our faculty’s quality and caliber is far better than many of these institutions that are in the same group,” Khator said.
The Senate also expressed concerns over transfer student rates.
“We have a really problematic first year retention rate,” Vice President for Academic Affairs John Antel said.
Antel also said that he anticipates more furloughs and layoffs from the 5 percent budget reduction plan Gov. Rick Perry implemented in February.
Khator also expanded on the need for more doctorate graduates. The yearly goal is 200 students, but in 2009, UH fell short of that line. She encouraged those at the meetings to help improve those numbers.
“We will be a tier-one institution,” Khator said. “We aren’t that far away.”