The Herald Bulletin

February 23, 2014

Ivy Tech officials working to improve college completion rates

By Stuart Hirsch
The Herald Bulletin

---- — INDIANAPOLIS — Ivy Tech Community College officials said they're doing a better job of graduating students than the results of a new study released by the state Commission for Higher Education suggest.

It's all how you calculate the numbers, they said.

The report released last week by the commission shows that a high percentage of Indiana college students are taking a long time to graduate, which can lead to both higher costs and lower success rates.

Only about 3 in 10 students who enroll at an Indiana four-year campus graduate on time and only half finish within six years, according to the study.

At the state's two-year campuses, fewer than 1 in 10 students finish on time and only 12 percent graduate within three years.

At two-year schools, 5.1 percent of attending students finished on time at the same campus, and 15.2 percent finished their degree work late, but at the same campus.

At Ivy Tech, 3.8 percent of students who began degree programs on one campus completed their work on time, while 15.6 percent of students completed degrees late.

The report is based on data going back six years for community college campuses and the class of students entering in 2007, and eight years for the four-year colleges and universities.

All Indiana Ivy Tech locations were included in the report. Separate results for Ivy Tech's East Central Region, which includes Madison County, were not broken out.

According to the study, 8.2 percent of students who began their degrees at one Ivy Tech location but transferred to another campus, or completed a different type of degree raised the overall completion rate to 27.7 percent.

The problem with data used in the commission report is it doesn't reflect the reality Ivy Tech students face in their daily lives, or the method the community college has traditionally used to measure student completion rates, said Ivy Tech President Thomas Snyder.

He said about 70 percent of students enrolled at Ivy Tech attend part-time, and those students were not counted in the college completion report.

Ivy Tech officials adjusted the report data to count Ivy Tech students. When adjusted to accurately count part-time population, Ivy Tech's completion rate is 48.5 percent, Snyder said. According to data provided by the college, that number reflects a 6.2 percent increase over last year.

"While we appreciate the desire to move more students through higher education faster, the reality is that the community college student is often balancing life, work and sometimes a family," Snyder said. "The average Ivy Tech student takes just over five years to complete a degree," Snyder said.

He added that only 4 percent of more than 100,000 students enrolled in a given term take at least 15 credit hours a semester, "which is what it would take to graduate in two years."

"Our student body is the most complex in higher education," Snyder continued. "As we compare our six-year completion rates with other four-year schools' eight-year completion rates, we see that there is a level of consistency across the state."

Snyder said Ivy Tech officials are committed to ensuring student success, which often includes extra time and remedial college preparation classes before moving into faster paced programs.

"As we make adjustments within the community college, we are optimistic that we will see our success rates for four- and even two-year completions increase, just as we have seen with our six-year rates," Snyder said.

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Ivy Tech Community College Completion Rates For every 100 students who start college as full-time students: -- 5 students complete within 2 years. -- 20 students complete with 4 years. -- 28 students complete within 6 years *Based on certificate or associate's seeking students starting in fall 2007. Source: Indiana Commission for Higher Education