Get behind the wheel!

Get behind the wheel!

Nov 17
Jason Emmert, Assistant Dean, Academic Programs

“Wow, what a beautiful car,” you think to yourself as you are signing the papers to pay for your dream ride. You’ve been working hard, saving for this for a long time, and the day is finally here. The last signature is written, the last handshake shared; you have the keys in your hand and you begin walking toward the vehicle that you’ve been wanting for years. And keep walking. You leave the new car (and your money!) behind.

What a crazy scenario! Well, unfortunately this happens all the time, all around the country. Students (or parents) pay for an education that goes unfinished. Granted, there are many reasons this can happen – finances, health, and other personal reasons can get in the way, and that can happen at any university. However, the truth is that graduation rates vary tremendously from school to school. 

Are graduation rates an important factor to examine when considering different universities? Absolutely! Often times we’re consumed with comparing cost among schools, but we don’t take the time to look at the schools’ track records of graduating their students. And taking more time to complete a degree adds cost. 

So what do we need to know about graduation rates? First, you should know that the national average four-year graduation rate is around 36%. That’s not great, in my opinion. Part of the problem on many campuses is that there’s just too much competition to get into required courses, causing students to take more time. What about U of I? Our four-year graduation rate is around70%, which is just about double the national average. And, we have the SECOND HIGHEST GRADUATION RATE IN THE COUNTRY among universities that offer similar degree programs to those we offer in ACES.

OK – looking at the four-year graduation rate is important, and most students want to graduate in four years. But what about students who don’t finish in four years; do they ever graduate? For most universities, you’ll also find a published six-year graduation rate. Six years – that sounds scary! Well – that actually does not literally mean six years; it really means more than four. If you take 4.5 years to finish, you become part of the six-year graduation number. Six years provides enough time for most students, even if they face some of the problems I mentioned above, whether it’s financial, health, or something else. When you look at the six-year rate, that’s basically the final graduation rate; very few students take longer than six years.

Well, if the 4-year average is around 36%, what is the 6-year average? Around 56%. Yep – that’s right. Across the country, just over half of all college students ever graduate. But I have good news – at the U of I, around 85-87% of our students finish. And for us, most of that increase happens in one semester (in other words, after 4.5 years). Student graduation is a point of emphasis on our campus, and we plan to keep it that way!

Now – if you’re a college student (or planning to become one) you’re not a statistic. You are an individual, and the numbers I provided above do not mean that you will, or will not, graduate in four years, whether on our campus or another campus. But I believe the numbers do give you an indication of the “pool” you’re in. You’ll have a good idea whether or not you’re surrounded by students who are likely to graduate. And seeing your peers succeed can have an impact on you – motivating you to achieve great things, and reach (or exceed!) your potential. 

At the U of I, we encourage you to dream big – and it’s our job to help you achieve those dreams. Don’t walk on by what you’ve worked so hard to acquire – and get behind the wheel of the best ride of your life!

Graduation rate