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The University Star




The Student News Site of Texas State University

The University Star

The Student News Site of Texas State University

The University Star

Opinion: Low graduation rate needs a fix for a better valued diploma

Grad+Rates+column+illustration
Grad Rates column illustration

Texas State’s graduation rate is distressingly low. Though there is a new emphasis on improving the university’s graduation rate, especially as Texas State President Kelly Damphousse looks to create a new culture of student success, the strategies implemented by the university are nonspecific and unfocused.
As the university sets new records with its freshmen enrollment, there needs to be a more strategic implementation of these ideas to cultivate student success into discernible resources that students can easily access.
In recent years, Texas State has grown dramatically in terms of enrollment. Although there are plenty of new students every year, the university has an ongoing issue with retaining its undergraduates. According to a report by Texas Monthly, which used statistics provided by the university, 25% of freshmen do not return for a second year. Furthermore, the percentage of students that graduate within a four-year timeframe is 36% and the overall graduation rate is 58%.
A university’s graduation rate correlates to its reputation. Damphousse said there is a recent sentiment that universities with high retention rates and graduation rates were viewed as better performing. Texas State’s recent push to become an R1 research institute reflects this value.
“We want to be seen as a university that is high-ranking in its research, but is also high-ranking in its student success efforts,” Damphousse said. “We have two great commissions going on right now. One of them is becoming an R1 institution and [the other] is the Commission on Student Success. Both of those things have huge impacts on the reputation of the university.”
Comparing Texas State’s graduation rates to the University of Texas at Austin shows an issue that needs addressing, especially if Texas State desires to compete academically with schools across the country. UT has an undergraduate enrollment of 40,916 — significantly higher than Texas State’s which has remained around 34,000 since the fall of 2017. UT had less than 4% of freshmen not return for a second year, a four-year graduation rate of 72.8% and an overall graduation rate of 87.7%.
Texas State can learn from the success of the University of Texas Student Success Initiatives that were implemented a decade ago. Before this program, UT had similar struggles with its graduation rates, with the four-year number stagnating at around 52%. However, since implementing the program, rates have steadily increased.
Brian Dixon, UT Austin’s vice provost for Enrollment Management, revealed the in-depth approach to their success in increasing graduation rates. Not only is there a shared sentiment of student success across the campus, but there is also an emphasis on resources provided to students, especially those from low-income and underrepresented backgrounds. This contrasts with Texas State’s approach to graduation rates.
Damphousse argued that a top-down effort is the best approach to increasing the graduation rate. This means that the upper levels of administration should take the first step in “creating a culture.” Though there is immense focus on the First Gen Proud program, which has increased freshman retention rates to a record level this past year, there need to be clear strategies to assist with other underrepresented demographics.
Vice President for the Division of Student Success Cynthia Hernandez expanded upon Damphousse’s observations. To her and the Division of Student Success, created once Damphousse took the role of the university president, there is an emphasis on creating a sense of belonging. Though this lacks a clear strategy, it does help to start a conversation between students and the administration on what the student body truly needs — a refreshing experience to voice their opinions to university staff and faculty.
The future of Texas State’s graduation rates starts with an open dialogue between the students and the university’s administration. In that regard, Damphousse and the Division of Student Success are building an excellent future for Bobcats. But a new culture can only last if we build foundations upon adequate resources available to the university’s underrepresented population.
– Dalton Powell is a public administration senior
The University Star welcomes Letters to the Editor from its readers. All submissions are reviewed and considered by the Editor-in-Chief and Opinions Editor for publication. Not all letters are guaranteed for publication.

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