Report says 66% of class gets degrees
LSU’s graduation rate has reached an all-time high, with 66.7 percent of 2006’s freshman class leaving school with a degree in hand, the university reported Wednesday.
Graduation rates are calculated by tallying the number of first-time freshman who complete school within six continuous years at the same institution.
LSU’s graduation rate represents a 5 percentage point increase over last year’s 61.9 percent rate and a significant increase over the 39.4 rate posted two decades ago.
State Commissioner of Higher Education Jim Purcell called LSU’s announcement “great news.” He said increasing graduation rates was one of the top goals of the Louisiana Board of Regents, the state’s higher education policy board, when they phased in tougher admissions standards in 2006.
Purcell said he anticipates that other public colleges and universities will have increased their graduation rates when the data is compiled.
“LSU is the flagship university in this state, so it’s no surprise that they’re leading the way,” Purcell said. An increased graduation rate was also one of the main goals of LSU’s “Flagship 2020: LSU Transforms Lives” plan unveiled two years ago.
LSU administrators declined on Wednesday to specify a target graduation rate for which they are shooting. However, former Provost Jack Hamilton said LSU should strive to graduate 70 percent of its students when the Flagship 2020 plan was announced.
Hamilton also argued that LSU should be focused on emulating more-competitive flagship schools like the University of North Carolina and the University of Virginia, where top out-of-state students compete to attend.
On Wednesday, LSU System President and Baton Rouge Chancellor William Jenkins gave a nod to the Flagship 2020 plan in saying that the progress realized in 2012 originated from the foresight of the administrators of the past.
“This didn’t happen overnight,” Jenkins said. “This started years ago.”
Jenkins said LSU has been paying particularly close attention to the 2006 freshman class as a harbinger of student success.
Tougher admission standards generally leads to better-prepared students who are more likely to stay in school through graduation, he said.
“So it’s not a surprise in that sense ... We knew it was coming,” Jenkins said.
Provost Stuart Bell said he expects LSU’s graduation rate to eclipse the Southern regional rate this year after falling two percentage points below the 64 percent regional average last year.
Bell said he expects that regional average to stay about the same when the numbers are reported in the next several months.
If Bell’s prediction is proven correct, LSU will have outpaced its peers’ average for the first time in school history. But the 66 percent graduation rate would still be far below rates achieved by schools like the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Clemson University, and the University of Maryland at College Park, which all posted graduation rates at or above the 80th percentile last year.
LSU would also have some catching up to do with some of its rivals on the football field including the University of South Carolina, with 70 percent; and the University of Florida and University of Georgia, both with 84 percent.
Bell said LSU could be on its way to closing the gap. He credited LSU’s network of academic service providers for their work identifying out-of-state students having trouble adjusting and students struggling academically.
Bell said academic services is also adept at addressing the “diversity of preparation of the students coming into LSU, who he explains come from some of the state’s lesser funded school districts and have not been exposed to advanced classes while in high school.
“We’re not doing anything magic, we’re just providing them with services,” Bell said.