After years of low completion rates, the fall semester’s graduation numbers may indicate that USF’s graduates are on the rise.
Currently, the six-year graduation figure, which reflects the number of students who entered in 2004 and will be graduating in 2010, is 51 percent.
“The 51 percent is a preliminary figure,” said Paul Dosal, director of the Office of Student Success. “It is about two points higher than the previous six-year graduation rate (of 2009).”
Dosal said that though the trend is increasing — in 2002-08 the graduation rate was 48 percent and in 2003-09 it was 49 percent — on-campus support systems, such as the Learning Commons, and admission standards need to be improved
“We need to recruit students that demonstrate more aptitude for success,” he said. “We also need to take a look at how we deliver courses. We don’t want to say that it is solely the responsibility of the student (to do well). We need professors to know that they too bear responsibility, and need to look at their lectures, discussion formats, the books they use, all of that.”
According to collegeresults.org, USF’s graduation rates, as of 2008, fall behind the University of Florida’s, which is approximately 80 percent; Florida State University, which is 70 percent; and the University of Central Florida, which is 63 percent. The average graduation rate in the nation is 55 percent.
Nonetheless, student body president Cesar Hernandez said he is optimistic that the University will continue increasing its rate.
“Knowing what the University and its students are capable of doing, I believe that we can easily, within the next four years, begin to have almost a 60 percent graduation rate,” Hernandez said. “I honestly feel like that’s a tangible goal.”
Hernandez said to improve these rates, the faculty-to-student ratio needs to come down, and the University needs to make advising sessions more accessible to students.
He said that in 2009 the faculty-to-student ratio at USF, which is the ninth largest university in the nation, was approximately 27-to-1. According to an article published in The Oracle on July 22, the national average is 22 students per faculty member.
“We’re hiring faculty and we’re putting money toward training them,” Hernandez said. “We are also doing minor things like extending the library hours. Starting next year, five floors are going to have 24-hour access rather than just the first floor. We’re also going to have access to wireless (Internet) everywhere, even at areas like the Botanical Gardens.”
Daton Haywood, a senior majoring in accounting, said he thinks that if advisers made themselves more accessible to students, it would positively affect the graduation rate.
“Fifty-one percent is basically failing. As an average, it seems low,” he said. “I don’t think that it’s necessarily the professors’ fault either. I feel like sometimes our advising offices don’t give us the proper support channels to make sure we graduate in a four-year period.”
Dosal said that though the University is happy with the slight uptake in graduation rates, they are still not satisfied.
Hernandez agreed, and said that in his position at USF he is able to see the issue from the perspectives of both the students and the administration.
“The (administrators) really want to connect to the students, and if we can just get them to communicate to each other, we can improve these rates,” Hernandez said.