Report: On-time college graduation low in Ind.

File Photo.
File Photo.

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Most full-time college students in Indiana do not graduate on time, according to a new report that looks at whether people are completing college and how long it’s taking them.

The report, released Tuesday, places Indiana University in Bloomington at the top of overall completion rates at about 83 percent. Ivy Tech Community College is at the bottom with about 28 percent. But only about half of IU Bloomington students graduate on time, and less than 4 percent graduate on-time from Ivy Tech.

The report, completed with data from the state Commission for Higher Education and the National Student Clearinghouse, factors in students who transfer and graduate from another university or take longer to get a degree. Numbers reflect student data from 2007 to 2013 in community colleges and from 2005 to 2013 for other institutions.

Higher Education Commissioner Teresa Lubbers said on-time graduation should be a priority for the state. “The best policy for students and the state is, whenever possible, on-time completion,” Lubbers said.

Completion rates factor into state higher education performance-based funding, which is recommended by the commission. A higher on-time completion rate means more state dollars.

Indiana colleges and universities now offer incentives to get students out the door faster. IU froze tuition rates for sophomores on track to complete their degrees, and Indiana State University will pay tuition for students who meet strict criteria but don’t get their degree on time.

Traditional four-year universities, such as IU and Purdue University in West Lafayette, come out on top in terms of on-time graduation. Ivy Tech, where many students are older and work full-time jobs on top of taking classes, doesn’t fare as well, President Tom Snyder said.

“Overall, the commission objectives are really important and we’re striving to do that, but when you look at our performance versus four-year regional campuses, we’re pretty competitive,” Snyder said.

State Rep. Matt Pierce, D- Bloomington, said more emphasis should be placed on helping to keep students who already have a few years of college under their belt from dropping out instead of focusing on students who take one or two extra years to get their diploma.

Students who take extra time to deal with mental illness, a family death or a change of major end up paying the price, Pierce said. Students lose financial aid after four years, which Pierce said also compounds issues for students working part-time to pay for their education.

“There’s definitely an issue there, but you have to step back and look at what’s causing it,” said Pierce, who also works as a professor at IU in Bloomington. “I don’t think (members of the Commission for Higher Education) have a good handle on the root issue.”

The increased cost to students is another reason the commission wants students to finish on time.

“The reality is for those students who are receiving financial aid, it runs out in four years,” Lubbers said.

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