Monday, Feb. 20, 2012
By Dr. Craig Spinks, Ed.D
Recently, I received a copy of Augusta State University's The President's Report 2011. The impressive annual periodical, which is distributed free-of-charge to ASU's friends, alumni, faculty and staff, contains sections typical of other universities' marketing efforts. The ASU periodical features highlights, news, class notes, alumni & development, financials and giving. Paid particular note were the $1.1 million grant provided by the National Science Foundation to finance scholarships for students who agree to teach science-, technology-, engineering-, and math-related fields in Burke, Jefferson, McDuffie and Warren counties; the ASU's Division I Golf Team's winning its second consecutive NCAA National Golf Championship; the work of ASU's College of Education's Fulbright Scholar, Dr. Olajide Agunloye, to build a mentoring program for teachers in Nigeria; and the work of Helen Hendee and her associates to build the corpus of the Augusta State University Foundation, Inc.
Missing from The President's Report, however, were systematic data documenting the efficacy and efficiency of ASU in producing the leaders Augusta and Georgia will need to meet the civic, economic, social, and moral challenges of the new century. While the graduates' anecdotes provided in the report make for interesting reading, they cannot provide a complete picture of ASU's success in producing needed graduates. Absent is any chart depicting the size and majors of ASU's most recent graduating class and any longitudinal data comparing the most current class with earlier ones. Moreover, there is no information regarding the characteristics of the most recent freshman class and other under-classes. This absence of any data regarding enrollee-inputs and leader-outputs makes any measure of ASU's efficacy and efficiency in leader-production impossible.
However, while the efficacy and efficiency of ASU as a producer of long-term leadership for greater Augusta and Georgia may not be feasible, we might gain an insight into our university's success in satisfying a shorter-term performance criterion, the school's six-year graduation rate. This rate is one of the prime criteria used by The University System of Georgia(USG) to judge the efficacy of each of its member institutions.
Here, the efficacy of my alma mater was not sterling. Of the thirteen four-year schools operated by the USG, ASU had the lowest specific-institution(20.8%) and system-wide (28.5%) six-year graduation rate during the 2009-10 school year, the latest year for which data were available. For comparison, the USG's six-year graduation rates were 51.7% for specific-institutions and 58% for the system as a whole.
Moreover, ASU's success in retaining students during the 2009-10 school year was not stellar. Only Columbus State(64.5%) and Armstrong Atlantic(69.3%) state universities had lower institution-specific retention rates than did ASU(69.8%) during this school year. Only Columbus State University had a lower system-wide retention rate than did Augusta State(73.3%) in 2009-10.
So what do these graduation and retention data mean? What do they imply? Working students? Surely working full-time while one attends college might be expected to interrupt one's enrollment and to slow one's progress toward graduation. But I'd bet that ASU's not the only four-year school in the USG with a sizeable proportion of working students.
Is "unprepared students" another possible explanation for my alma mater's dreadful graduation rate? ASU runs a sizeable academic remediation program. Many area HS grads who have attempted to enroll at ASU for college-level work don't demonstrate the Reading, Math and Writing skills necessary for success in such work. Failing scores on COMPASS tests indicate these deficiences. Many kids who apply and are admitted to ASU earn failing scores on these college-readiness measures.
A reasonable, concerned taxpayer might ask, "Why are so many area HS graduates unprepared for college-level work at ASU?" "What can we do to insure that our area's high school graduates are ready to succeed at ASU and at other post-secondary educational institutions?
Are you reasonable and concerned?
Dr. Craig Spinks, Ed. D.