Sixteen percent is too low for UH
Compared to the University of Texas at Austin and Texas A&M University, the University of Houston’s four- and six-year graduation rates are not acceptable to UH President and Chancellor Renu Khator.
The four- year and six-year graduation rates among UH students have risen to 16.5 percent and 45.7 percent, respectively, placing UH below the six-year or less average of 57.4 percent for public Texas universities. UT has a four-year graduation rate of 50.7 percent and a six-year rate of 82.9 percent, while A&M graduates 53 percent in four years and 83.6 percent in six years.
“Our graduation rate is not where it needs to be,” Khator said.
“When I meet successful alumni, I always tell them how proud I am of them. But for every successful alumnus, there’s another student who is left behind.”
Student Government Association President Cedric Bandoh shares with Khator’s disappointment.
“We have an incredibly talented and diverse student body, with many of our students at the top of their high school class and the first person in their family to go to college,” Bandoh said. “We frankly must do better.”
Its location and the type of students the University attracts may be the cause of such a low rate — not necessarily student intelligence.
“Enrollment at an urban public university such as the University of Houston includes a significant number of older beginning students, who typically take longer to graduate than traditional-age beginners,” said Executive Director of Media Relations Richard Bonnin.
“(The graduation rate) is not surprising, as many of these students have the additional responsibilities of raising a family and are taking courses while working to pay for college or while fulfilling active military duty requirements.”
This theory is supported by Bandoh.
“Most classes are scheduled between 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., which doesn’t allow us to offer as many course sections as possible,” Bandoh said. “It also causes a parking headache because thousands of us are coming and going simultaneously.”
Not all seem quick to blame the nature of the University or the faculty.
“We’re at an amazing school that rivals schools like UT, A&M and Rice, and we should be proud of it and be ready to work hard to make our school proud of us. The only people to blame for low graduation rates are the students, and they’re the ones that need to step up and fix it,” said piano senior Bethany Monjaras.
The solution may be what are called high-impact practices, which involve students individually, directly and communally. These practices mentioned in the research from the National Survey of Student Engagement and the Association of American Colleges and Universities were cited recently by Khator as a factor that improves grades, engagement and student retention.
“A recent study by UH’s Office of Institutional Research concluded that UH trailed its national peers in delivering high-impact practices such as learning communities. Only 13 percent of UH’s first-year students are engaged in learning communities compared to 22 percent at public non-residential institutions and 18 percent of urban institutions,” Bonnin said.
As UH’s high-impact practice rate is also low, Khator aims to improve it as a way to increase four- and six-year graduation rates.
“We must engage students in these practices early,” Khator said. “We don’t want to lose momentum. I compliment our faculty because I recognize its commitment to student success. These practices are just a piece of the puzzle and can help us improve our classrooms and continue to grow as an institution.”
Bandoh hopes to attack this issue by encouraging the students to take on a larger course load and get more involved.
“I always highly encourage students, if possible (starting from freshman year), to take 15 credit hours a semester to ensure graduation in four years. I also highly encourage taking summer school (and taking core classes at local community colleges and transferring them in to save money). If available and possible, high school students should get as many of the core courses completed as they can during high school,” Bandoh said.
“All of these academic components must also be accompanied by improvements in campus and student life. I believe our new University Center and new residence halls will help as we have more students on campus permanently.”
Additional reporting done by Alexandra Doyle.