UC Berkeley joins effort to increase graduation rates nationwide

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UC Berkeley has joined a nationwide initiative launched Oct. 2 designed to improve graduation rates at the country’s public universities.

Project Degree Completion, which was created by the American Association of State Colleges and Universities and the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities, aims to increase the nation’s overall graduation rate by three percent annually and seeks to graduate 3.8 million additional students by 2025. By its launch, approximately 500 public college and universities had signed on to the effort.

“This century will see America face a myriad of challenges — economically, socially, culturally, and civically,” said Susan Chilcott, vice president for communications for the American Association of State Colleges and Universities, in an email. “We will not meet those challenges without an educated citizenry.”

To meet the goal, the project staff recommends that campuses re-evaluate educational methods in order to encourage more students to complete their degrees. The methods include offering more courses, reaching out to former students who left prematurely and reducing the time frame in which a student is required to complete a degree, according to the APLU website.

Rosemarie Nassif, special adviser at the U.S. Department of Education, said postponed graduation lessens the chance that a student will get a degree.

“The longer it takes, for many students life issues get in the way; they all diminish of motivation,” Nassif said. “Time is the enemy here.”

APLU President M. Peter McPherson said because UC Berkeley already practices several recommended methods, it has high degree-completion rates. According to a March ranking by The Chronicle of Higher Education, the campus had a six-year graduation rate of 91.1 percent in 2010, the second-highest rate of any public university nationwide.

“Berkeley is a leader in graduating its students and a leader in educating lower-income students,” McPherson said. “We’re particularly proud that Berkeley is a part of our organization.”
The campus has seen an overall upward trend in graduation rates since 2000 — a contrast to the graduation rate trajectory of the United States as a whole.

The United States has slipped to 14th in graduation rates out of 37 surveyed countries, according to Nassif. This trend prompted the launch of Project Degree Completion.

This project’s goals are analogous to those outlined in President Obama’s 2020 College Completion plan. Under the plan, which aims to increase national employment levels, the country would have the highest proportion of college graduates  worldwide by 2020.

According to the Center on Education and the Workforce at Georgetown University, by 2018, 62 percent of  jobs in the United States will require some amount of college education.

“America cannot lead in the 21st century unless we have the best-educated, most competitive workforce in the world.” Obama said in 2009.

Contact Virgie Hoban at [email protected].