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Contact: Alan Richard
(404) 879-5544
Released: 4/14/2010

SREB Highlights 15 Public Colleges and Universities for Success With Students, Degree Completion

ATLANTA — Fifteen public colleges and universities across the nation — including institutions in Kentucky, Mississippi, North Carolina and Texas — are outperforming most similar institutions in helping students stay on track and graduate, a major new report from the nonprofit Southern Regional Education Board (SREB) shows.

The SREB report profiles 15 four-year public colleges and universities nationwide whose success in raising graduation rates may provide other institutions with practices and strategies that work to help more students succeed. The report, Promoting a Culture of Student Success: How Colleges and Universities Are Improving Degree Completion, profiles six public institutions in SREB states: Murray State and Western Kentucky universities in Kentucky, Delta State University in Mississippi, North Carolina Central and Elizabeth City State universities in North Carolina, and Sam Houston State University in Texas.

All of the institutions in Promoting a Culture of Student Success outperform similar colleges and universities by having relatively high graduation rates compared with similar institutions, based on criteria developed by SREB. The report also outlines common approaches and strategies that these institutions are using to boost student success for other institutions, university systems and states to use.

"These institutions are helping many students complete college degrees who otherwise often do not graduate," said Cheryl Blanco, an SREB vice president who co-wrote and researched the report with consultant Paul Bradley. "The strategies they’re using can be adopted by other colleges and universities, and will guide state policy decisions to improve degree completion across the nation," she said.

Despite rising college enrollment, improvement in students’ timely completion of bachelor’s degrees in the United States has stalled, according to the report. Fewer than one-third of degree-seeking, full-time freshmen in public four-year institutions graduate in four years. Most students who enter college as first-time, full-time freshmen take at least six years to earn a bachelor’s degree — and only 55 percent graduate in that time span. And research shows that students from disadvantaged economic backgrounds or with low SAT/ACT scores are even less likely to complete bachelor’s degrees than their classmates.

The institutions profiled in the SREB report are helping more students complete degrees while also providing a quality education. These institutions often serve a comparatively high percentage of students from low-income families and students with average-or-below scores on standardized achievement tests. Yet their six-year graduation rates are near the national average for all students.

The study team used The Education Trust’s College Results Online database to select colleges and universities that met these criteria in 2006: a six-year graduation rate of at least 45 percent; a median SAT score no higher than 1050 (ACT average of approximately 25); a proportion of students receiving Pell Grants of at least 25 percent; and Carnegie Classification as a public baccalaureate or master’s institution.

Using the study criteria, SREB selected the following 15 institutions in the following states for this report:

California: California State University, Long Beach and California State University, Stanislaus

Illinois: Western Illinois University

Kentucky: Murray State University and Western Kentucky University

Mississippi: Delta State University

Missouri: Northwest Missouri State University

Nebraska: Wayne State College

New Jersey: Montclair State University

New York: Queens College, The City University of New York and The College of Staten Island, The City University of New York

North Carolina: Elizabeth City State University and North Carolina Central University

Pennsylvania: Clarion University of Pennsylvania

Texas: Sam Houston State University

The report’s key recommendations call for institutions to:

  • Make graduation of all students to be the first priority of the campus, the faculty and staff, and central to the campus culture and to all institutional practices at every public four-year institution.
  • Emphasize students’ degree completion in the selection and evaluation of all campus administrators, especially the president and top academic administrators.
  • Charge a team of campus leaders with overseeing efforts to improve student success.
  • Help ensure that students are academically ready to succeed in college — in reading, writing and math — and provide them with additional instruction when needed.
  • Require that all students choose a major and develop an individual graduation plan by the end of the freshman year.
  • Provide appropriate and targeted programs and services that foster degree completion.
  • Closely monitor all students’ progress on their individual graduation plans.
  • Develop an institutional master course schedule that covers at least three years.

For more information about the report, contact SREB Communications.

The Southern Regional Education Board, or SREB, based in Atlanta, was created in 1948 by Southern governors and legislatures to help leaders in education and government work cooperatively to advance education and improve the social and economic life of the region. SREB has 16 member states: Alabama, Arkansas, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Mississippi, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia and West Virginia. More information is available online at www.sreb.org.

Southern Regional Education Board
592 10th Street NW
Atlanta, GA 30318-5776
(404) 875-9211

For additional information, please e-mail communications@sreb.org