Post Classifieds

CBS article misleads readers

By Caleb Slinkard
On April 26, 2011


An article published by CBS in February of this year has been popping up in various Internet circles recently, and I think it is high time someone called the author, Lynn O'Shaughnessy, out on it.

The post "25 Universities With the Worst Graduation Rates" states that "you are more probably more likely to find a $100 bill laying on the sidewalk than earn a diploma from these schools in four years." According to O'Shaughnessy, Texas A&M University-Commerce sits at number five on this list, with a zero percent graduation rate in four years. The author cites information from a Federal education database, IPEDS. The article mentions six other Texas universities, including the University of Houston- Downtown, where current A&M-Commerce President Dr. Dan Jones served from 1985 to 2002 in various capacities.

Whoever selected the header did so for shock value, and it communicated false information. The list is not of the 25 state universities and colleges with the worst graduation rates at all. Instead, the information she provides centers around universities whose students don't graduate in four years, which is hardly the fault of the university. Even a cursory glance at data from IPEDS makes it clear that O'Shaughnessy missed the point.

Graduation rates are based on the percentage of students who enter a university as a first-time, full-time student and graduate within six years, not four. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, under the U.S. Department of Education, IPEDS "tracks the progress of students who began their studies as full-time, first-time degree- or certificate-seeking students to see if they complete a degree or other award such as a certificate within 150% of "normal time" for completing the program in which they are enrolled." Right now, A&M-Commerce has a 42 percent graduation rate and a 37 percent transfer out rate.

Graduating in four years is difficult when you have to work part-time or even full-time to pay for college. I know. I've had part-time jobs along with my job at The East Texanfor most of my college career, and balancing work with school is a draining thing. Even with available scholarships and a low tuition, paying for college is a struggle.

Beyond that, other factors can cause students to stay longer than four years. Pregnancy, marriage, sick loved ones, etc. can all force students to take a semester or two off. Students sometimes simply get overwhelmed with the workload, and taking a semester off can help ease the stress.

And students can also be lazy, skip and fail classes, or not pay attention to the required classes in their majors. This can be somewhat augmented with a strong advising system, but you can't force a student to attend classes.

I am the first one to point out areas that our university needs to improve in, because unless our university community is honest about our flaws, we can't continue to become a better, more efficient and more prestigious university. But there is no need to present information in misleading ways.

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