One-Third of UNC Students Graduate In Four YearsCHARLOTTE, N.C.
One out of every three students who enrolled in the University of North Carolina system in 1996 graduated in four years, a slight increase from the freshman class of 1994, according to a report released by the UNC Board of Governors last month.
Graduation rates ranged from a high of 66.9 percent at UNC Chapel Hill to a low of 17.8 percent at UNC Pembroke. The overall rate of 33 percent was up one percentage point from the 1994 freshmen.
Administrators at UNC Charlotte, which graduates about one out of every five freshmen, say a project they are developing may be the key to retaining campus populations.
Next fall, two groups of about 22 freshmen will live together in one wing of a dorm and take at least four of their classes together. The freshmen learning communities are Charlotte’s reaction to a national trend that stresses the importance of the links between students and their school.
“One of the things that we know from national data is that connecting students to the university during the first six weeks is imperative to keeping them here,” says Provost Denise Trauth. “Students need to feel like they’re part of something.”
Besides taking their classes together, the students will be encouraged to do community service and plan social events together. If the project succeeds, more students will be included.
The university has focused on freshmen because it loses about 25 percent of its students after the first year. The learning community project is the latest in a series of efforts that has included an expanded orientation, more freshman seminars and mandatory academic advising for freshmen.
The strong economy has contributed to UNC Charlotte’s low retention rate, Trauth says.
“Not everybody is leaving because of academic problems,” she says. “Some of these students have wonderful computer skills, and they can get great jobs. Employers don’t care if they don’t have a baccalaureate degree.”
While it’s difficult to compile statistics on why students leave, Trauth says the university’s goal is to keep the students who want to stay.
“What I don’t want to see is students leaving the university because they haven’t connected or feel like they can’t succeed here,” Trauth says.
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