Completion rates and college admissions

From the other side of the desk

Completion rates and college admissions

I think we all would agree that no matter which side of the desk you are on — whether it be the counselor or admissions side — the desk is spinning and we are all going through an incredible amount of change.

My goal is to share with you updates, observations and realities on what is happening in admissions and enrollment so that you are informed as you counsel your students. The more our two worlds can remain connected — even in times of change — the better off your students will be.

Completion rates is a topic that comes up frequently in my profession. Given the scrutiny on the cost to attend college, and the importance of a degree with a high return on investment, completion rates and goals are paramount. However, in the pursuit of degree completion, we need to appreciate the realities that exist within our society and their influence on completion rates.

In my mind, there is little doubt that federal financial aid funding will eventually be tied to completion rates and career data. The more we know now about completion rates, the more we can align strategies to success in the future.

As high school counselors, you are inundated with information from folks like me on all of the things going on at the colleges and universities. However, I sometimes wonder how much critical information really gets shared. And, moreover, how do we focus our exchanges of information so that we spend less time on recruiting and more time on completing?


To help ground the conversation, it’s best to start with some key statistics about student persistence:

• Although most bachelor degree programs require 120 credits for completion, the average number of completed credits is 136. Thus, students are expending an extra 16 credits on average to complete their degree.

• Part-time students graduate from associate degree programs at a total rate of 6.9 percent.

• When income and academic performance are compared inversely, high income and lower academic preparation outperform lower income and higher academic preparation.

• Up to 25% of all students that enroll at a higher institution for a second year transfer to a different college or university than the one they started at.

Based on these points, it seems that the college admissions community needs to do a better job of sharing information that is truly impactful in identifying a good fit for a student. The standard admissions data that has been typically used may not correlate to performance at all.

To me, certain figures such as student-faculty ratio and number of clubs are somewhat irrelevant if we are working towards the end goal of graduation.

Ian Mortimer is Vice President of Enrollment Management at Nazareth College in Rochester, N.Y.

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