Effort to increase college degrees
Written by HAROLD BROWN Sentinel City Editor
Tuesday, 14 August 2012 09:28
Bowling Green State University's reputation for having a higher percentage of students earn degrees than statistical predictors indicate, brought the Complete College Ohio Task Force to campus Monday afternoon.
The 31-member panel is charged with finding ways to improve Ohio's 38th place national standing in the percentage of residents with bachelor's degrees in the workforce.
"This is an issue I have talked very passionately about. It is important to Ohio," Board of Regents Chancellor Jim Petro said. Since 1969 the U.S. has fallen from leading the world in college graduates to 15th, he said.
"This has hindered America. In the next three months we will be looking at strategies and ideas and approaches to recommend steps that may enhance completion," he said.
Petro cited a report by Complete College America that American colleges offer too many choices and cost too much, among other issues. "We don't want students to leave college with excess debt but we want them to leave and have opportunities," he said.
Petro said from his own experience as a parent he agreed with the idea that colleges offer too many choices.
Between now and the annual Ohio Board of Regents meeting Nov. 13, the full committee will visit the University of Akron Sept. 18 and Sinclair Community College Oct. 23. In between those sessions, several sub groups are concentrating on issues and gathering data.
The "No Time to Waste" group is looking at strategies to reduce the time it takes to get a degree and ways to minimize students drifting through college without earning a degree.
The "Ready for College" group is looking at ways the secondary and postsecondary institutions need to work together to ensure students have the academic foundations to be successful in their certificate and degree programs.
The "Help Me Cross the Finish Line" group is exploring approaches that will reward student progress and identify incentives that can increase completion.
In addition to BGSU President Mary Ellen Mazey's program on BG's initiatives, the task force also heard a report by Bruce Vandal of the Education Commission of the States, and a Completion by Design report from Dr. Scott Markland of Sinclair State, that looks at the issue from a community college perspective.
During Vandal's report, Petro said the state will start making 10th grade assessments this fall, rather than wait until 2015. The assessments are intended to show how students are learning and target those who need additional work to help them be successful.
"There's no reason to wait," Petro said.
Mazey said she found BGSU well-placed with its completion initiative when she arrived on campus 13 months ago.
An Ohio Business Roundtable report showed BGSU best in the state for predicted graduation rate vs. actual graduation rate using indicators established by U.S. News and World Report. BGSU's 65 percent graduation rate is higher than West Virginia University (50 percent) and Auburn (60 percent), where Mazey was previously an administrator.
By comparison, BGSU's entering freshmen had a 3.2 high school grade point average and an average ACT score of 22, while Auburn students had a high school GPA of 3.7 and an ACT score of 27. BG's rate is third in the nation behind Penn State and Michigan State.
Six Ohio public colleges rate among the top 30 nationally (BG, Kent, Miami, Cincinnati, Ohio University and Ohio State).
"We recruit students and their parents," Mazey said. First contact is made in the seventh and eighth grades and there is a call center for students and parents. BG's freshman class averages 38 percent first-generation college students.
Mazey said incoming freshmen will be kept busy this weekend, are being encouraged to connect with at least one faculty member and become involved in extra-curricular activities.
A Learning Commons that opened last year as a tutoring center in Jerome Library has attracted "not just D and F students but students who are getting a B and want to get an A," Mazey said. "The culture here is tied around the success of students. I have not seen that at all of the other places I have been."