Local college grad rates improving

July 31st, 2017

By Ron Shawgo | The Journal Gazette

Traditional four-year graduation rates continue to improve at Indiana's public colleges, while the rate for students finishing in six years is holding steady, according to a new report.

Ivy Tech Community College Northeast has improved its on-time, two-year completion rate by 1.4 percentage points to 6.6 percent. Its six-year rate has remained relatively level in the last five years at 22.9 percent, the lowest among the 14 Ivy Tech campuses.

At IPFW, the on-time, four-year completion rate of 16.2 percent is a 3.2-point improvement from the previous year, although the six-year graduation rate declined 4.4 percentage points to 36.1 percent. The four-year rate is slightly below average for the nine regional schools that are part of the Indiana University and Purdue University systems.

Its six-year rate ranks eighth.

The numbers, from the Indiana Commission for Higher Education's college completion report for 2017, are for students in two-year and four-year schools who would have graduated in 2016. Ivy Tech is a two-year school and IPFW is a four-year school.

Over the past five years, on-time graduation rates have increased by more than 11 percentage points at the state's public colleges, and the completion gap between minority students and the overall student population has been cut nearly in half, according to a statement release this week by the commission.

On-time graduation rates have improved by about 10 percentage points at Indiana four-year campuses over the past five years, while two-year campuses have improved by about 6 percentage points, according to the report.

Among all public colleges, 34.5 percent of students graduate on time at the same campus and degree level, an increase of 11.3 percentage points in five years. Within six years, 54.2 percent of students complete at any campus or degree level, a rate that has remained stable, the report found.

At IPFW, 36.1 percent of students graduate within six years at any campus or degree level. That is a decline of 5.2 points over five years. The drop can be attributed to more people graduating over the post-recessionary period and fewer students transferring, Irah Modry-Caron, IPFW director of institutional research, said in an email.

Minority students at IPFW persisting to a second year remained level at 65 percent, 8 points below all students. Minorities also graduated on time at a rate lower than the general student body – 10.9 percent compared to 16.2 percent. Still, the minority rate is up 10.2 percentage points in five years.

“Improvements can be attributed to IPFW retention efforts as well as state of Indiana financial aid reforms,” Modry-Caron said. “The percentage of students persisting to their second year has shown nearly consistent performance from Fall 2010 to Fall 2014.”

Ivy Tech Northeast spokesman Andrew Welch noted the school has improved its two-year, on-time completion rate by 4 percentage points from a low of 2.6 percent in 2010. He also said other Ivy Tech campuses reported declines in six-year completion rates. He attributed the local drop to an improvement in regional unemployment rates.

“Our local economy plays a part in the persistence of students here at Ivy Tech,” he responded in an email. “This report highlights a particular time when the economy in northeast Indiana and the entire state was recovering, and individuals who had started their path were able to find the jobs they needed to support their families.”

Welch said that among Ivy Tech Northeast's student body, 73 percent attend part time, with most of them working; 43 percent of independent students have incomes of less than $16,000; and 20 percent are single parents.

“Many of our students are first-time as well as part-time, as opposed to those who fall within the traditional, full-time college-bound student role who have the ability and resources to complete on time,” he said. Completing 'on time' requires students to attend full time.”