State Auditor Report Finds Room for Improvement in College Grad Rates
A new report from the office of the Utah State Auditor shows the state could improve on college graduation rates.
David Stringfellow is the chief economist for the office of the Utah State Auditor. Looking at education records that date back to 1999, he says he found too few students are prepared for higher education and not enough earn degrees. But Stringfellow was also able to predict which students would graduate, including students who take 15 or more credit ours per semester and students who complete individual courses.
“Remediation hours were kind of surprising,” Stringfellow says. “The students that had higher numbers of hours of remediation were much less likely to graduate from college.”
Only about half of students who enter the higher education system in Utah will graduate with an Associate or Bachelor degree. Stringfellow says that’s about middle-of-the-pack when compared to other states. And looking at ACT scores, he found that while about 80 percent of high school students say they plan to go to college, only about a quarter of them are prepared for entry-level college courses.
Higher Education Commissioner Dave Buhler says every institution in Utah is focused on improving remediation. He says the report doesn’t stress how those courses are helpful to many students who may only need one or two classes.
“But it does make a pretty clear point that those who spend a lot of time in these courses do not have great success,” Buhler says. “And if you think about it, it’s not too surprising. You know, it’s not connecting for them.”
The report recommends Utah colleges and universities redesign the remediation system. That could take the form of online tutorials and free courses to better prepare students before they even enroll.