When is a 46 percent graduation rate a good graduation rate?
The Watertown Daily Times is reporting today that Jefferson Community College had the highest six-year graduation rate among state community colleges, for students who enrolled in 2002. That number comes from a study by the Center for Urban Studies: It’s a combination of students who completed a two-year associate degree (29 percent), and students who transferred to receive bachelors degrees (17 percent).
This doesn’t sound so impressive, Vice President for Academic Affairs Thomas J. Finch admitted to the paper: “The biggest part of that is people see 46 percent and say ‘big deal’.” But here’s why he says it is, in fact, a big deal. College graduation rates aren’t measured the same way as high school rates (where clearly 46 percent wouldn’t be so hot): If a student decides to transfer to another community college, the state considers that person a dropout. It’s also more common for people to take only a few classes at a community college, or to do a year at the local community college to save money on school.
There’s also the additional fact that many of JCC’s students are Fort Drum soldiers, and they don’t necessarily stay around to get a two-year degree (that actually doesn’t count against the graduation rate, by the way.) And for others, life intervenes and they take more than six years to earn the associates degree.
JCC Vice-President for Students Betsy Penrose told the paper that JCC’s graduation rate has improved since 2002 — as of last fall, 34.34 percent of the 2006 cohort had completed an associates degree — compared to the SUNY-wide rate of 32.17 percent, and the national rate of 27.67 percent. “So, it appears we are trending in a positive direction.”