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FSU’s four-year graduation rate on the rise

The 2017 spring commencement ceremonies will be held Friday, May 5 at 7:30 p.m.; and Saturday, May 6 at 9 a.m. and 2 p.m.
The 2017 spring commencement ceremonies will be held Friday, May 5 at 7:30 p.m.; and Saturday, May 6 at 9 a.m. and 2 p.m.

More Florida State University students are graduating with a bachelor’s degree in four years or less, placing Florida State among the top 15 public universities nationally for its four-year graduation rate.

Currently, 80 percent of FSU students graduate within six years, but recently the focus has been on improving the four-year graduation rate, which is now 65.3 percent — a 5 percent increase over the previous year’s cohort.

“Student success is a university-wide effort,” said Provost and Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs Sally McRorie. “It’s clear that the strategies we have been applying are working. We are honored to have continual recognition as a national leader when it comes to student success.”

The rise is attributed in part to efforts by FSU’s Enrollment Management Committee, which has been meeting every two weeks for several years to find ways to improve graduation rates.

“It’s a challenge because there is no one reason why students don’t graduate,” said Associate Vice President for Academic Affairs Rick Burnette. “It’s a continuing process. We identify groups of students who are at-risk and try to determine what can be done to remove any obstacles and create a clear path to graduation.”

University administrators describe Florida State’s strategy as “broad-based and targeted.” The broad-based approach seeks to eliminate barriers to graduation for the overall student population, and the targeted approach identifies unique and at-risk populations and develops programs to address their particular interests and challenges.

“We use data to optimize academic pathways and to provide students the engagement and support they need to thrive,” said Assistant Provost Joe O’Shea. “We want every student to succeed and FSU’s dedication to that mission is reflected in our graduation rates — in fact, our underrepresented student populations graduate at the same rate as our other students.”

Some examples of broad-based techniques employed by FSU to help all students succeed and graduate are academic maps, tutoring, predictive analytics, proactive advising and using mobile technologies to inform students of all the options that are available to help them.

“One of our main goals is student empowerment,” Burnette said. “We want students to know what tools and resources are available if they do start to struggle. We want them to become lifelong learners who are able to seek out the means to their own success.”

Targeted efforts include the creation of campus programs like the Center for Academic Retention & Enhancement (CARE) and Unconquered Scholars, which help traditionally underrepresented students transition and succeed in a university environment. The Student Veterans Center is another program that assists veterans in their transition from military service to campus life. Florida State has a five-year average retention rate of 92 percent for student-veterans.

“Certain students are at greater risk than others, and we want to figure out what their needs are early on,” Burnette said. “It’s important to remember that some of those needs are not just academic. All types of factors affect the totality of the student experience.”

FSU has also promoted student success initiatives such as “Take 15,” which encourages students to take 15 credit hours instead of the 12-credit minimum required for full-time enrollment. University data show students who take 15 credit hours posted higher GPAs, higher retention rates and graduated sooner.

In addition, FSU is launching the Center for Teaching Excellence, which will partner with faculty to enhance teaching and improve student learning and success.

Last week, FSU was recognized in a national study for having one of the highest graduation rates among African-American students. The study from The Education Trust examined nearly 700 universities and found 74.5 percent of FSU’s African-American students graduate within six years. Nationally, about 40 percent of full-time, African-American students earn a degree in six years.