The silence is deafening.
This community should be up in arms over a set of recently released federal statistics involving college graduation rates.
Maybe everyone was off on summer vacation July 25, when the Beacon Journal printed a guest column by a national higher-education research analyst. If you are among the multitude who missed it, feast on these stats:
• Of all the first-time, full-time students who enroll at the main campus at the University of Akron, only 14 percent graduate in four years.
• Only 38 percent graduate in six years.
That is absolutely, positively unacceptable.
The same university that is throwing up buildings faster than a drunken Donald Trump can’t graduate more than 14 out of 100 students in four years?
Close to two-thirds of the students who enter with high hopes can’t succeed in six years?
Pathetic. Almost criminal.
In a guest commentary in the Beacon on Aug. 2, UA Provost Mike Sherman tried to downplay the report by saying those numbers — “a misleading federally mandated measurement,” as he put it — cover only first-time, full-time students who graduate from the same institution they enrolled in originally.
He cited a case in which a student transferred to UA from another college and earned his degree while gaining co-op work experience that led to a great job with General Motors. Sherman pointed out that the statistics in question don’t cover those situations.
Well, guess what? Every other university in the country has similar tales of students transferring in and doing well. But not every university has a graduation rate that is 20 percent below the national average and near the bottom of the pack in Ohio.
Nobody set out to trash UA. The local university was judged using exactly the same criteria as Miami (70 percent graduate in four years, 82 percent in six years), Ohio State (51 and 80), Ohio U (44 and 65), Bowling Green (35 and 58), Kent State (26 and 50), Toledo (24 and 46) and so on down the line.
UA trails Wright State (18 and 40) and, in terms of four-year success, is a single percentage point better than Shawnee State (13 and 22).
Shawnee State — where 46 percent of the freshmen leave before their second year. I can tell you without even checking that Shawnee State did not embark on a $620 million building binge during the past 13 years.
And we haven’t even mentioned the many private colleges around Ohio, places like Wooster (68/75) and Wittenberg (66/71) and Walsh (49/60) — oh my. With grants and aid, private schools can cost the same as public schools.
The author of the original column, Joseph Yeado, works for The Education Trust, a Washington-based advocacy group for low-income and minority students. Among the group’s board members:
• A law professor from Yale.
• The deputy director of education for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
• A chancellor emeritus of the University System of Maryland.
• A dean in the Graduate School of Education at Harvard.
Not exactly a bunch of rummies spewing “misleading” statistics.
Yeado took a particular interest in the graduation rates of African-American students at UA. He should have, because those are beyond awful.
When it comes to black students enrolled full time at UA, the federal stats show that slightly less than 10 percent graduate in six years and a miniscule 3 percent are able to take home a diploma within the traditional four years.
In his rebuttal, the UA provost boasted that statistics not yet processed at the federal level will show that the six-year black graduation rate for the class of 2012 soared to 17 percent. What he didn’t mention was that the black graduation rate was 24 percent in 2002 — and it hasn’t hit 18 percent since 2003.
For comparison, the six-year black graduation rate is 73 percent at Ohio State, 64 percent at Miami, 57 percent at Wooster, 55 percent at Ohio U and Wittenberg, 50 percent at Bowling Green, 40 percent at Kent State and 20 percent at Toledo.
Add all these numbers together and we are left to conclude that either:
A.) UA is not giving the students the support they need, or
B.) UA is admitting people who simply are not equipped to do the work.
There’s no law saying Akron has to enroll everyone with a pulse. Of course, if a school is more selective, it has a harder time raising the money to rebuild its entire campus and fill room upon room of new student housing.
This school has been building, building, building. But what is it building?
Isn’t it time for UA to devote a big pile of money to, say, converting its faculty from predominantly part time — 59 percent! — to full time, rather than sprucing up the campus?
Area taxpayers should be demanding to know why a university that has been constructing things faster than a post-World War II Levittown is foundering in one of the most important categories in higher education.
Bob Dyer can be reached at 330-996-3580 or firstname.lastname@example.org.