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Friday, May 14, 2021

Academics & Research

Graduation rates haven’t been impacted by pandemic plights


Gerald Sastra/The Cougar

Graduation rates haven’t changed over the course of the pandemic, but record breaking numbers have been reported for the 2020 academic year.

The pandemic caused the lives of many to shift dramatically over the last year. Students and professors alike had to quickly adjust in order to stay on track.

Mental health has been a concern since students had to switch from such a populated learning environment, to being practically isolated and docile for hours at a time.

Moreover, many students have been put under financial stress finding their caretakers or themselves unemployed.

These factors alone, combined with the pressure of academic performance looming over them, create concern for those not wanting to continue their pursuit of higher education.

Provost Paula Short said that despite the pandemic, dropout rates have slightly decreased.

In Fall 2019, the withdrawal rate was 1.1 percent for around 46,000 students. This past fall, the rate dropped to .9 percent for about 47,000 students.

Class availability during the pandemic was also a concern since online would be considered the optimal choice.

“Despite the challenges presented by the pandemic, the University is committed to offering enough courses in multiple delivery formats for students to fulfill their academic requirements, leading to a timely graduation,” said Short.

According to Short, graduation rates are calculated through cohorts several years after enrollment, so it would be too early to tell if it affected students that first enrolled at the beginning of the pandemic.

A record number of over 11,000 degrees were issued in the past year, about a thousand more than the previous two years.

“Our students have showed remarkable resilience during this difficult time, overcoming obstacles to stay on track to graduation,” said Short.

The pandemic hasn’t affected enrollment rates either, as there was another record breaking number of over 47,000 students enrolled for the Fall 2020 semester.

Graduate student enrollment increased by 16 percent, and new master’s degree programs increased by 25 percent, compared to Fall 2019.

Students expressed their concerns about academic pressure from the ongoing pandemic, starting petitions and formally requesting to bring back the Interim Grading Policy that first rolled out last spring.

Last week, Short announced that the policy would be reinstated in light of the winter storm that devastated the area, alongside the continued difficulties of the pandemic.

“We recognize the unique struggles our students — and students around the country —may be facing,” said Short. “University leadership has pledged to remain flexible and compassionate as we navigate this difficult time together.”

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