Up to this point, most of the feedback provided by the report I am discussing in this series of posts have shined a fairly positive light on USAO. Overall, our student body seems slightly more diverse and pays less for their undergraduate education than students at similar institutions.
The figures that follow could be construed as less positive, though it is important to consider them in the context of the type of school we are comparing ourselves against in this report. We share some critical similarities with these schools: We are among the smallest 4-year institutions in the country and focus on a liberal arts education. Though we share the same mission and many of the same values, we are dissimilar in many other ways as will become clear in the latter posts of this series. So as we move forward with our comparisons of USAOs completions, it is important to keep this in mind let we develop an overly negative impression of our track record.
As a case in point, let us consider Figure 7 which summarizes key completions figures for USAO and its comparison group. Taken as a whole, these figures indicate that a smaller proportion of USAO students obtain their bachelor’s degree relative to students at the comparison schools. Examination of our full-time and part-time retention rates reveals a similar pattern. Additionally, the transfer out rate indicates that a larger proportion of students that started their post secondary education at USAO end up transferring to another institution.
This last figure for today’s discussion describes what we call “time to completion.” This figure helps us understand how fast the typical student obtains their degree. For most high school students (at least this was the case for me so many ages ago), this time frame was a firm four (4) years. As it turns out, this is only true for some students. Most students that do obtain their baccalaureate degree take between 4 and 6 years and this depends on a whole host of factors. As before, this graph shows USAO students take longer to graduate than their counterparts in our comparison schools.
Before concluding this entry, I feel I should point out my near-overwhelming desire to speak editorialize. I will refrain from doing so, as I intended this series to be more about presenting facts about USAO generally and the IPEDS Data Feedback Report, specifically. However, I will once again remind our readers that understanding the impact and full meaning of these figures necessitates placing them in the context of other facts and figures. For now, let it suffice to say that while USAO’s completion rates are lower than this specific comparison group, they are actually at least as good (and often better) than other institutions we also use as a basis for comparison. I expect to offer more complete picture of these issues in the months to follow.