ATLANTA — For the first time, information from the Southern Regional Education Board (SREB) shows the proportion of college graduates who were transfer students across the South and the time and number of course credits that students take to finish college degrees.
The information was officially released today in the SREB Data Exchange 2009-2010 Indicators Report, SREB’s annual update of higher education data for state leaders. SREB has long been a regional and national authority on comparative higher education data. It will publish the new, expanded SREB Fact Book on Higher Education in June.
"These new sets of data will inform policy decisions in SREB states as leaders push to help more students prepare for college, attend college and graduate from college," said Joe Marks, the director of SREB Data Services. "Our region will need many more students to graduate with two- and four-year degrees and technical certificates to thrive in the future."
The new report and the details behind it are available on the SREB website (www.sreb.org) under "Education Data." Many SREB state higher education governing and coordinating board partners contributed to the data compilation. Among the findings:
Large numbers of college students change schools. The percentage of bachelor’s degree graduates in 2008-2009 who transferred into the public colleges they graduated from ranged from nearly a third (29 percent) in West Virginia to more than half (56 percent) in Texas, showing the large share of transfer students among graduates in many states. Data are available from 10 SREB states in this initial reporting year on that measure.
How long does it take to graduate?
The report confirms that most students in the South do not earn a bachelor’s degree in the traditional four years. The report shows that in 2008-2009 the average time for students who started at and graduated from the same college ranged 4.5 years in Tennessee to 5.4 years in Georgia. Data are available from 10 SREB states for this measure.
Many bachelor’s degree students also take more hours than the typical degree program requires — 120 semester hours — before they earn a degree. The average number of credits attempted by a first-time student who graduated from the same public four-year college where he or she began ranged from 121 in Arkansas to 144 in both Kentucky and North Carolina in 2008-2009. Transfer students at public four-year colleges ranged from 78 attempted credits in Virginia to 97 in Kentucky. (The number of hours transferred is not collected in the SREB survey for these students.) These data are exploratory and are currently available for five SREB states, including Georgia and those mentioned above.
The report also shows that college tuition and fees remain on the rise in all but two SREB states. The average annual tuition and required fees for in-state undergraduates at public four-year colleges in the 16 SREB states in 2009-2010 rose by 5.2 percent from the previous year, to $5,670. State averages ranged from $4,016 in Louisiana to $8,760 in South Carolina. For public two-year colleges, average annual tuition and required fees rose by 11.3 percent to $2,578 in the region over the period. State averages ranged from $1,682 in North Carolina to $3,750 in Kentucky.
For full-time, first-time students at public four-year colleges, "progression rates" (the percentage of students who either graduated, transferred or remained enrolled within six years, or 150 percent of normal time) slipped in the SREB region on average in 2009 by 1.7 percentage points from the previous year, to 73 percent. State averages ranged from 57 percent in Mississippi to 83 percent in Texas. At public two-year colleges, the region’s progression rate was 49 percent in 2009, up 1.2 percent. Florida, Texas and Virginia had the region’s highest average rates.
The six-year graduation rate for public four-year colleges and universities in SREB states was 52 percent in 2009. The three-year (150 percent of normal time) graduation rate for public two- year colleges was 18 percent in 2009.
Fifteen of the 16 SREB states increased the numbers of two- and four-year degrees conferred. The region awarded more than half a million (526,101) bachelor’s degrees in 2008-2009, up 3.4 percent from the previous year. Rates increased the most in Arkansas at 7.5 percent and Georgia at 6.7 percent.
Enrollment, e-learning are up
College enrollment continued to grow in all 16 SREB states. The region’s full-time-equivalent enrollment at public four-year colleges grew by 3.3 percent in 2009-2010 from the previous academic year. Virginia had the largest growth rate at 8.1 percent, followed by Georgia at 4.9 percent. Public two-year college enrollment grew in the region by 10.6 percent, including 13 percent-or-larger growth rates in Tennessee, Delaware and Georgia. No SREB state had less than an 8.6 percent enrollment growth in public two-year colleges.
All SREB states that reported such data also saw increases in the percentages of college credits earned by high school students (at both two- and four-year colleges) and the percentage of college credits earned through e-learning.
E-learning rose to 16.6 percent of undergraduate instruction at public four-year colleges in Florida in 2009-2010, up 1.9 percent from the previous year. Arkansas, Maryland, North Carolina and Oklahoma had sizeable increases. All states reporting this data also saw online growth at public two-year colleges: Students received at least 12 percent of instruction through e-learning in every SREB state, including 20 percent or more of course content in Kentucky, North Carolina, Oklahoma and Tennessee.
On average, students at public four-year colleges in the region appear to engage in less online learning than at two-year colleges. At four-year institutions, e-learning in 10 SREB states accounted for less than 12 percent of undergraduate instruction in 2009-2010.
Reflecting the nation’s economic downturn, funding (state appropriations plus tuition and fees) and compensation trends were affected. Even with the tuition increases, in 2009-2010 funding per full-time-equivalent (FTE) student in SREB states fell 3.9 percent, on average, at public four-year colleges and universities — ranging from a 21.6 percent decline in Louisiana to a 6.1 percent increase in Delaware. At public two-year colleges, funding per FTE student fell 3.3 percent, ranging from a 23.4 percent decline in Louisiana to a 6.2 percent increase in North Carolina.
Average salaries declined for full-time instructional faculty at public four-year colleges and universities in five SREB states — and in seven states at public two-year colleges.
To learn more about the Data Exchange or your state’s progress in higher education, see the report or contact SREB Communications.
SREB, a nonprofit and nonpartisan organization based in Atlanta, Georgia, advises state education leaders on ways to improve education. SREB 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. Each is represented by its governor and four gubernatorial appointees.