It is a good sign to read and hear that university presidents are discussing the need for higher graduation rates, and with more emphasis. The message is coming through clearly that it is no longer appropriate to say to a freshman class, look to your right and look to your left and one of you will not graduate. Instead of a weed-out culture, universities are voicing a student-focused and engaged supportive culture that helps students graduate. This is all very positive for the future of STEM education where student support is needed, both through engaged teaching and support outside the classroom.
The Chronicle of Higher Education recently published an interview with President Freeman A. Hrabowski III, University of Maryland-Baltimore County. President Hrabowski explained that all students need support in college. The UMBC learning communities are very important in providing this support. His message is that high graduation rates are important and can be achieved, with the presence of learning support processes. http://chronicle.com/article/Video-What-It-Takes-to-Help/147511/
At the 2014 annual American Society for Engineering Education (ASEE) Conference held this past June, keynote speaker President Mitch Daniels, Purdue University, spoke of the importance of “getting the yield of this process up”, referring to much higher rates of degree completions. In particular, he said that a weed-out mentality “has got to go” and it is important to “improve the success rate of teaching”. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3MDDFE4UN_o
As an aside, ASEE’s Prism’s recently referred to President Daniels as “STEM’s Unlikely Patron Saint” http://www.asee-prism.org/stems-unlikely-patron-saint-sum/
Related to improving graduation rates, here is one of my articles posted on the leadership page that discusses an approach to supporting students in their first year of college.
“A Strategy for Improving Freshman College Retention” published in the Journal for Quality and Participation. http://goo.gl/MMDJl9
Cindy Veenstra, Ph.D.