Posted on

Colleges must focus on retention


Sometime back I wrote a column titled “Everyone does not need a college education,” which is certainly a true statement. At this time I stated that everyone DOES need a quality high school education. Anyone who understands the economy very well will tell you that many people who have a trade –like auto mechanic, carpenter, welder, dry wall hanger, electrician, painter and many others –earn more money than many college graduates. It all comes down to the law of supply and demand. When the need is greater than the supply, the price goes up. It is as simple as that.

What I want to talk with you about today is just as important and can make a tremendous difference in the life and future of a young person, and a few older people as well. I want to talk about college retention, which is defined by the amount of time a student stays in school until they graduate after being admitted to their particular college. To have a better understanding of this issue, I turned to my friend Dr.

Houston Davis, president of the University of Central Arkansas, here in Conway. I might add, we have two other fine colleges here: Hendrix College and Central Baptist College.

Houston states from the beginning that their goal is to see their entire number of admitted students walk across the stage having earned their diploma. As he says, “It is important to them, to their family, and to the state of Arkansas.” Now, that is the goal, but what happens along the way when more than half will drop out short of getting their degree? This is

See DAVIDSON, page A6

Jim Davidson Common Ground DAVIDSON

From page A4

what I want to focus on, and maybe between the two of us we will have some answers for potential students and their families. Now, please let me quote Dr. Davis, and then I have some closing comments.

“Retention of students from freshman to senior year and then successful completion of their baccalaureate degree is our primary goal when a student is admitted to and enrolls at UCA. Our current freshman to sophomore retention is 78.8 percent, which is the second highest figure among public universities in the state and is a figure that has increased 7 percentage points in the past four years as we have implemented our student success initiatives. Our graduation rate for the latest cohort is 43 percent, which is the third highest figure among public universities and is expected to increase as these same student success initiatives continue.

“Graduation is important for economic as well as qualityof- life reasons. A recent independent economic impact study revealed that for every $1 invested in their studies at UCA, the graduate will see a $5.20 return in higher future earnings.

Seen as a long-term investment of those funds, the graduate would enjoy a 19.1 percent average annual return over the life of that investment throughout a career. In contrast to annual earnings with only a high school degree, the average bachelor’s degree graduate from UCA will see an increase in earnings of $31,100 each year, which translates to $1.4 million more in career earnings.” Thank you, Houston, for that excellent information that is most helpful in allowing us to understand the true value of a quality college education. For those students who graduate from high school and have a desire to go to college, I just want the message to come through loud and clear: when you enroll, make the decision right then to stay in school until you graduate. Take it from one who dropped out after only 50 hours and has regretted it ever since. Colleges must do a better job of making students feel safe, secure, involved, valued and appreciated. The students and the school have a responsibility to make it work.

Jim Davidson is an author, public speaker, syndicated columnist and Founder of the Bookcase for Every Child project. Jim’s column has been self- syndicated to over 375 newspapers in 35 states.

Scroll Up