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FAU Looks to Boost Low Graduation Rate

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FAU Looks to Boost Low Graduation Rate

I read this article (Florida Atlantic University looks to boost poor graduation rate - South Florida Sun-Sentinel.com) about FAU trying to boost its poor graduation rate. It got me thinking about what the issues are and what can be done to improve it. The article brings up some good points but I think our biggest challenges are: quality of student and location.

UF has the highest graduation rate but that's because they get the cream of the crop as far as student's go. I'd also be willing to bet that most freshman don't have to worry about finances there. FAU is in a tough spot because we have to try to bring in the highest quality students but also ones that will succeed in college and not drop/fail out. Unfortunately, a lot of our incoming Freshman are dealing with financial issues so they stay close to home. This leads me to my next point:location.

We're lucky that we have so many high schools in south Florida. People always know that FAU is there and it's an OK option if you can't get into UF or FSU and you can save money by living at home. This is great for Freshman year but those Freshman are still tied to their life at home a lot of times and will stop going to school to work or transfer to their "dream school" after two years after they've saved up enough money. We really need to be focusing on kids from further distances. Those kids HAVE to live on campus and get the "traditional" college experience.

I always get asked "what's your retention/graduation rate?" And it always makes me mad because students shouldn't be choosing their school because of what someone else has done. If you want to graduate in 6 years (which is what the graduation rate is based off of) then you can! The school isn't keeping you from doing that. I think it's good FAU is stepping up to address this issue.

I could go on and on about this topic but I'd like to hear what you guys have to say about it. I know, I know. We wouldn't have this problem if we were good in football,lol.


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Re: FAU Looks to Boost Low Graduation Rate

i agree. but the problem with FAU, is that our budget took a huge hit so summer classes got cut, professors let go, or not enough funds for other items such as tutors, or renovating buildings. Yet you are right, FAU is stepping up to address the problem, but FAU does need to expand beyond its current boundaries or buy or rent spaces at high schools or other complexes. Yet I'm guess those plans are in the future though, and the i bet the good old senior citizens of Boca Raton would not like that move. Just like they dont want University Blvd to develop or a true night life in Boca, or that supposed new TRI-Rail Coastal Station to be built next to US-1, the bowl game  or didn't want the on Campus football stadium to happen or Spanish River Blvd to get a exit. Retiree money plays a huge factor in a town like Boca Raton and its politics.
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Re: FAU Looks to Boost Low Graduation Rate

FAUfasho said

Unfortunately, a lot of our incoming Freshman are dealing with financial issues so they stay close to home.

Very good point. I didn't really think about that, though we've kind of talked about that in a roundabout way by mentioning how many students also work. In fact, I've written a new blog post that (in part) covers part-time students. It's scheduled to post on Friday morning.

One of the things about UF is, if you're attending there, you've probably had a high enough GPA to qualify for a scholarship… and it probably covers 100% of your tuition and fees (and maybe even your housing, who knows). Or let's say your parents are well-educated, have high paying jobs and want the best education in Florida for you; they think UF provides that so they foot the bill.

Either way, you're enjoying a free ride.

If you got into an FAU with, say, a 3.2, you may qualify for a partial scholarship. Maybe none. So now you have the burden of several thousands of dollars every semester and FAU will continue racking up the price every year. How do you pay for it?

Some (like myself) choose to go with student loans. On the other hand, it's certainly understandable that people don't want to accrue that kind of debt and/or don't think the banks deserve the ridiculously high interest rate they get on these loans.

So people work to pay for FAU. And the more they work, the fewer classes they can attend and the slower they are to graduate.

FAUfasho said

People always know that FAU is there and it's an OK option if you can't get into UF or FSU and you can save money by living at home. This is great for Freshman year but those Freshman are still tied to their life at home a lot of times and will stop going to school to work or transfer to their "dream school" after two years after they've saved up enough money. We really need to be focusing on kids from further distances.

While we can't change the student's financial situation - other than throwing tons and tons of money at scholarships, which we do - we can absolutely focus on students from further away, even if it's someplace like Tampa.

Admitting such a high percentage of people from Boynton to Davie "services the area" but hurts our retention rate and the campus experience. It's so much harder to get people who grew up in a place like Delray to buy into "FAU as a traditional campus" thing.

So my question to you, FAUfasho, is: are we doing this? Is Admissions intentionally focusing on more students from outside the area? If not, who makes that decision? Your boss? The President? The BOT?

FAUfasho said

Those kids HAVE to live on campus and get the "traditional" college experience.

Agreed. And I think we've made very good progress on this front so far… but there's obviously more than can still be done.

P.S. I don't respond to guest posts. All guests are encouraged to register with the site.
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Re: FAU Looks to Boost Low Graduation Rate

Owl2Doc said

While we can't change the student's financial situation - other than throwing tons and tons of money at scholarships, which we do - we can absolutely focus on students from further away, even if it's someplace like Tampa.

Admitting such a high percentage of people from Boynton to Davie "services the area" but hurts our retention rate and the campus experience. It's so much harder to get people who grew up in a place like Delray to buy into "FAU as a traditional campus" thing.

So my question to you, FAUfasho, is: are we doing this? Is Admissions intentionally focusing on more students from outside the area? If not, who makes that decision? Your boss? The President? The BOT?

I could argue against your comment concerning FAU's current mission to "services the area", hurting our retention rate. You sound like FAU should literally exclude local students and admit remote ones first and foremost. How is that a positive for community involvement and growth inclusion for our university? We are having a difficult time now. Not to mention hurting our locally talented kids. I don't think that's the answer.

Look, as I've mentioned here before, my son is currently enrolled at FAU. He chose FAU over two other state schools. We live in West Boynton, and we made it mandatory for him to live on campus. We looked at it as a maturity experience, and it has been. Moreover, he has loved the college experience FAU has provided.

Now, here's a compromise to your suggestion Doc. As I mentioned, we required for our son to live on campus. When he was admitted, FAU required all freshman students to live on campus…unless you lived within a 50 mile or less radius. I say remove that condition and include sophomores as well. The exclusion should only be for individual students, and families, that truly have a financial or other family reason, not to live on campus. Currently it's too easy to opt out.

-Go Owls!
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Re: FAU Looks to Boost Low Graduation Rate

prowler said

Owl2Doc said

While we can't change the student's financial situation - other than throwing tons and tons of money at scholarships, which we do - we can absolutely focus on students from further away, even if it's someplace like Tampa.

Admitting such a high percentage of people from Boynton to Davie "services the area" but hurts our retention rate and the campus experience. It's so much harder to get people who grew up in a place like Delray to buy into "FAU as a traditional campus" thing.

So my question to you, FAUfasho, is: are we doing this? Is Admissions intentionally focusing on more students from outside the area? If not, who makes that decision? Your boss? The President? The BOT?

I could argue against your comment concerning FAU's current mission to "services the area", hurting our retention rate. You sound like FAU should literally exclude local students and admit remote ones first and foremost. How is that a positive for community involvement and growth inclusion for our university? We are having a difficult time now. Not to mention hurting our locally talented kids. I don't think that's the answer.

Look, as I've mentioned here before, my son is currently enrolled at FAU. He chose FAU over two other state schools. We live in West Boynton, and we made it mandatory for him to live on campus. We looked at it as a maturity experience, and it has been. Moreover, he has loved the college experience FAU has provided.

Now, here's a compromise to your suggestion Doc. As I mentioned, we required for our son to live on campus. When he was admitted, FAU required all freshman students to live on campus…unless you lived within a 50 mile or less radius. I say remove that condition and include sophomores as well. The exclusion should only be for individual students, and families, that truly have a financial or other family reason, not to live on campus. Currently it's too easy to opt out.

-Go Owls!

I agree with most of what you said here….I think the commuter students have a higher tendency not to graduate compared to traditional college students.  They generally work full time while taking a full schedule (that's what I did).  It was a sacrifice and it was difficult.  It would have been easy at many times to drop out because of the external pressures.  FAU needs to probably focus on how to keep those students engaged, giving them a challenging education and getting them to graduate.

As for the students who live within 50 miles and don't have the live on campus rule…I think that should not be changed.  I think it is great that you were financially able to allow your son to live on campus (the experience probably will benefit him for the rest of his life), but I think a lot of local high school grads choose FAU because the housing portion to go away for school is a killer.  It all goes to being able to service a wide variety of students and situations.
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Re: FAU Looks to Boost Low Graduation Rate

Owl2Doc: We recruit the entire state thouroughly, although I'd say the pan-handle and north Florida aren't recruited much. The pan-handle is tough because we're only there one week a year (which is my terriroty, and one of my favorite trips) and it's expensive to travel there. That's probably the one of the biggest, if not THE biggest areas (south Miami being a close second) that we can draw from that we aren't right now. I'm going to see what we can do differently this year to boost enrollment from there. North Florida is so spread out (1 high school per county) and the majority of those kids don't even go to college so there's no point in spending time there.

We hit as much territory as we possibly can and I'm honestly not sure how we could do much more.

And we have to stay loyal to the local schools because that's where most of our Freshman come from and by not a close margin either.

The on campus living requirement should maybe be brought to within 30 miles. 50 miles is a heck of a commute.

I know Housing is working on ways to keep juniors and seniors on campus as well.
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Re: FAU Looks to Boost Low Graduation Rate

prowler said

I could argue against your comment concerning FAU's current mission to "services the area", hurting our retention rate. You sound like FAU should literally exclude local students and admit remote ones first and foremost.

Yeah, as I was writing it I thought someone might take umbrage with the suggestions there. And that's a fair assessment of what I suggested.

Let me clarify: I don't expect FAU to ever exclude local students completely. However, for 2012-2013 we got 924 freshmen from Palm Beach county and 940 freshmen from Broward in an overall freshmen class size of 3,242. That means 1,864 students (57%) of our incoming class came from the local area, and that doesn't even count the 121 students from Miami-Dade (which is a bit far for a commute but some do it) which if included would bump the Tri-County percentage up to 61%.

So right now it's fair to say that we're 60/40, local/non-local. What I'm suggesting, and what I think FAUfasho might be suggesting, is that we consider changing those ratios to 40/60 or maybe even 30/70. Obviously that's contingent on a number of factors, not the least of which is having enough applications to put those admissions goals in place. Local students with strong applications will still be able to attend FAU the same way that students with strong applications will still be able to attend their local universities no matter where they live: Gainesville, Tallahassee, etc.

prowler said

How is that a positive for community involvement and growth inclusion for our university? We are having a difficult time now. Not to mention hurting our locally talented kids. I don't think that's the answer.

Right, and we can agree to disagree.

In an ideal world, we'd take local students, graduate them and they'd stick around (whether in Boca or nearby) and support the university. Some do. But not a lot. Our alumni base just within the tricounty area is about 80,000 people and look at attendance at our sporting events. Look at alumni attendance at Homecoming. Look at alumni donations, or even membership in the Alumni Association. It's entirely disproportionate to the number of local students we admitted over the years.

And we've talked a lot about why that is several times, why students who graduated in the 70's and 80's (or even today, sometimes) never made that connection. The point is that it happens, it has happened, and despite all those students we've barely made a dent in fostering community involvement.

So to me, "community involvement" is more about the Lifelong Learning Society, the guest speakers, the July 4th Celebrations, the theater productions, the soccer fields near the east entrance, the summer camps, and of course our own sporting events. Drawing the local people, graduates or otherwise, into our campus to celebrate something that FAU offers. If they come often enough, they will promote the university to others. So in my mind that's what we need to do to promote community involvement, to give people a reason to come onto our campus and enjoy it.

prowler said

Look, as I've mentioned here before, my son is currently enrolled at FAU. He chose FAU over two other state schools. We live in West Boynton, and we made it mandatory for him to live on campus. We looked at it as a maturity experience, and it has been. Moreover, he has loved the college experience FAU has provided.

Which is awesome and every student like that is a win for FAU. I was in a similar boat: graduated high school in Boca, lived in Delray while attending FAU, became an FAU fan. It does happen, and it's happening more often now that we're giving people a reason to be proud of the school, but until recently these students have been hard to come by.

prowler said

Now, here's a compromise to your suggestion Doc. As I mentioned, we required for our son to live on campus. When he was admitted, FAU required all freshman students to live on campus…unless you lived within a 50 mile or less radius. I say remove that condition and include sophomores as well. The exclusion should only be for individual students, and families, that truly have a financial or other family reason, not to live on campus. Currently it's too easy to opt out.

I'm all for this. As FAUfasho mentioned, maybe it should be lowered to 30. And I'm almost entirely positive that FAU is considering this as well. It's all a matter of what you believe in. Housing at FAU is more expensive than it should be and going up 3% every year. If we restrict the radius we force more people to move in, which ensures that we fill dorms (and even build more) plus it cuts down on those crazy commutes. So that helps FAU, but now we've made college even more expensive for that kid. You decide one way or the other. Somebody has to lose. Two decades ago we went with the student, every time. The last decade we're putting FAU's interests first. I personally think that's a good thing - think about how much we've accomplished in the sphere of student life in the last five years. It's tremendous.

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Re: FAU Looks to Boost Low Graduation Rate

FAUfasho said

Owl2Doc: We recruit the entire state thoroughly, although I'd say the pan-handle and north Florida aren't recruited much. The panhandle is tough because we're only there one week a year (which is my territory, and one of my favorite trips) and it's expensive to travel there. That's probably the one of the biggest, if not THE biggest areas (south Miami being a close second) that we can draw from that we aren't right now. I'm going to see what we can do differently this year to boost enrollment from there. North Florida is so spread out (1 high school per county) and the majority of those kids don't even go to college so there's no point in spending time there.

Huh! Did not know that. Very good to know.

FAUfasho said

We hit as much territory as we possibly can and I'm honestly not sure how we could do much more.

I believe you.

FAUfasho said

The on campus living requirement should maybe be brought to within 30 miles. 50 miles is a heck of a commute.

Agreed. If I commuted 50 miles between 8-3 pm and then had to fight for parking on campus, I'd hate my life and want to transfer too. Even 30 minutes is crazy.

An interesting tactic might be to create a separate decal and lot for people who commute more than 30 minutes to give them a better chance of finding a spot.

FAUfasho said

I know Housing is working on ways to keep juniors and seniors on campus as well.

What ways?

I know how they could do it but they're probably not going to like the idea. In fact, that'll probably be the next Diehard blog…

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Re: FAU Looks to Boost Low Graduation Rate

I'm not sure exactly what they're planning but I overheard them talking about it during my tour of the new res hall. I think they should make the studios in UVA singles and charge a little more. That's a pretty nice place to have on your own, especially if it was a good price. But then you end up losing the money from having two students share that room. But maybe then you're pushing those students off campus because they can't afford a single room and look to move in with someone else that's cheaper.
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