Why JCC graduation numbers are “wow!”, not “meh…”

Photo: jeco, Creative Commons, some rights reserved

Photo: jeco, Creative Commons, some rights reserved

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.”

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5 Comments on “Why JCC graduation numbers are “wow!”, not “meh…””

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  1. Suzanne says:

    I understand overall why it’s a big deal and a positive figure. However, when a 2-year school states that for some it takes more than six-years to earn the associate degree lets be real, that is RIDICULOUS!
    At best that’s gaming the system to be a perpetual student and probably live off education dollars and/or avoid working to be on assistance as a student. That type of person is not a student… they are taking a slot and available funding from someone that is actually deserving of it.

  2. Lee says:

    Lots of people who take classes at community colleges have no intention of graduating. They enroll to learn specific skills that advance them at work. Others have a full time job and a family and take only 2 or 3 classes a year meaning an Associates degree could take a decade or more. “Graduaton rate” is not a very meaningful metric for what community colleges do, and I very much doubt that these part time students take a “slot” or “funding” from any full-time student. The “graduation rate” is probably more a crude measure of the ratio of traditional full-time students to other types of students than a performance metric.

  3. The Original Larry says:

    Associate degree: “meh”

  4. Walker says:

    Larry, lots of people take those two year degrees straight to a higher priced college and complete a Bachelor’s degree. In the process, they can save many thousands of dollars over the cost of all four years at a four-year school, but their diploma reads exactly the same as those of their classmates who started down the big debt road. Meh, indeed!

  5. The Original Larry says:

    Yeah well, it’s still “meh” to me in terms of their worth in the job market. More useless degrees possesed by uneducated people that devalue the degrees of the truly educated. College degrees for everyone!

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