UAFS hopes to improve on 18% overall graduation rate

by The City Wire staff ([email protected]) 416 views 

Diana Rowden has been named to the new post of dean of Student Success at the University of Arkansas at Fort Smith, just two days after UAFS Chancellor Dr. Paul Beran said student retention through graduation would become a top priority.

Beran told the UAFS Board of Visitors during a meeting Tuesday (June 23) that the focus of helping students stay in school and obtain a college diploma is the “cause célèbre” of his administration.

Rowden’s position is renamed from dean of College Preparatory because the job — effective July 1 — will include more focus on increasing retention and graduation rates, Dr. Ray Wallace, provost and senior vice chancellor at the UAFS, said in a statement. Rowden has a masters of business administration from the University of Arkansas, and a bachelor’s degree in accounting from Arkansas State University. She joined UAFS in 1989 and has served as director of the Gordon Kelley Learning Assistance Center and associate dean of College Preparatory.

“While working with students who need extra help in certain key academic courses is still part and parcel of this position, we want this dean, in conjunction with other university personnel, to look at ways in which we can help all our students graduate in a timely fashion,” Wallace said in the statement.

It’s a big job facing Rowden and the other UAFS deans.

The overall graduation rate at UAFS is 18%, according to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) of the U.S. Department of Education. However, UAFS did not convert to a four-year degree granting university until 2001. As of the 2008-2009 school year, the retention rates for first-time bachelor degree seeking students who began the program in 2006 was 68% for full-time students and 41% for part-time students.

Wallace said UAFS does not yet have internal retention/graduation measurements ready, but should have figures ready for analysis by mid-July.

Fewer than 60% of new students graduated from four-year colleges within six years, according to a June 2009 report from the American Enterprise Institute. The Arkansas average was 48.5% (UAFS was not included in the AEI study.).

“The South has the dubious distinction of housing institutions with some of the lowest graduation rates in our sample,” AEI noted in its report. AEI used figures from the 2007 Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System managed by the U.S. Department of Education.

Southern state graduation averages were: Alabama, 42.9%; Florida, 48%; Georgia, 44.7%; Kentucky, 44.3%; Louisiana, 40.1%; Mississippi, 46.1%; Oklahoma, 38.8%; South Carolina, 50%; Tennessee, 48.5%; and Texas, 45.8%.

The AEI researchers said there was a “dramatic variation in graduation rates” among the more than 1,300 colleges and universities surveyed, “even between those with similar admissions criteria and students.”

AEI surveyed these Arkansas universities:
Arkansas State University (9,268 students for 2007 school year): 38% graduation rate
Arkansas Tech University (6,510): 39%
Henderson State University (3,152): 33%
Southern Arkansas University (2,687): 34%
University of Arkansas at Little Rock (8,843): 20%
University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff (2,919): 33%
University of Arkansas (5,913 ): 58%
University of Central Arkansas (10,899): 44%

Arkansas Baptist College (592 students for 2007 school year): 100% graduation rate
Harding University (4,968): 60%
Hendrix College (1,187): 66%
John Brown University (1,858): 71%
Lyon College (479): 55%
Ouachita Baptist University (1,412): 66%
Philander Smith College (522): 28%
University of the Ozarks (614): 46%
Williams Baptist College (543): 33%