Friday, October 23, 2009

Jobs requiring higher education may outpace number of new grads

Complete College America plans to advise states and connect them with top experts on increasing college graduation rates.

Institutions of higher learning in Berks said they already do a lot to increase graduation rates.

"That's basically the whole focus of higher education: to bring the students in and graduate them," said Natalie Snow, Kutztown University's institutional research manager.

At Kutztown, the graduation rate for a student within six years of beginning school has steadily risen in recent years to the 53 percent that's reported in an analysis from Complete College America, Snow said.

Albright - where the graduation rate for a student over six years is 64 percent - tries to enroll students who will succeed and keep them in regular contact with faculty advisers, said Dr. Joseph M. Thomas, dean of undergraduate studies.

Diverse activities and a sense of community also keep students engaged, and free tutoring is available, he said.

But there is only so much a college can do, he said.

"It's really important that students be proactive themselves, self-advocate and take advantage of those opportunities, so that becomes the challenge for the faculty and administration: to go after those students who aren't as good at looking after their own interests," Thomas said. "But you certainly can't save everybody, and no one is going to graduate 100 percent of their students."

Graduation rates are critical and both colleges and prospective students pay close attention to them, said Dr. Mary Lou D'Allegro, senior director of planning, research and assessment at Penn State Berks.

Penn State Berks often compares its data to other institutions to see how it is doing, she said.

"We take a really hard look and we're actually doing quite well," D'Allegro said.

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