Higher Education

Clinton Lewis/WKU

WKU President Gary Ransdell says it’s every employee’s job to help the school retain as many students as possible.

Addressing faculty and staff at Friday morning’s convocation at Van Meter Hall, Dr.Ransdell cited examples of academic progress, including an increase in the average ACT score of first-time baccalaureate students.

But he added that the school is still allowing too many students to leave campus without finishing their degrees.

“We are graduating just over 50 percent of our students in six years and we are still losing 25 percent of each freshman class within one year of their initial enrollment. So, for our students’ sake—if not for our own financial stability—please become part of the solution to keeping our students at WKU until they graduate.”

The WKU President said he was concerned about the value of the school’s remedial courses that many freshmen take. Ransdell added he’s worried the school is losing students who return home after their first semester with only three to six credit hours.

WKU

The overwhelming majority of in-state students who get bachelor’s degrees from Kentucky’s public universities are remaining in the commonwealth.

A new report from the Center for Education and Workforce Statistics shows over 80 percent of Kentucky students who got a four-year degree from a state-funded school were working in the commonwealth a year later. On the other hand, only 30 percent of out-of-state students who graduate from Kentucky’s undergraduate programs stay in the commonwealth to work.

The report also gives a school-by-school breakdown of how many graduates stay in Kentucky versus those who leave the state, as well as a comparison of the average wages of each school’s degree holders.

You can see what the report had to say about the employment outcomes of WKU graduates here.

Charles McGrew, the executive director of the group behind the report, said schools can use the information to get a better idea of where their graduates are, and how they are doing.

“I think it’s difficult for faculty to know where all of their students go. Sometimes colleges do alumni surveys, but they may not be able to catch many of their alumni after the fact. So they don’t necessarily know how well they’re doing in the workforce, or possibly how long it takes to find a job, or whether they go on to graduate school,” McGrew told WKU Public Radio.

The price of a college education is soaring in America; so is the amount of student loan debt. President Obama has proposed regulations that would cap student loan payments at 10 percent of a graduate's income, and according to the latest Labor Department data, about a third of recent college graduates are either underemployed or jobless.

WKU

The budget passed by the Kentucky Senate this week has mixed news for WKU. Money for a capital project at the school was removed while other WKU-related funds were left intact.

The Senate’s budget deleted funding for most university capital projects, including bonds to fund a renovation of the Thompson Complex Center Wing, home to numerous WKU science classes.

However, the Senate budget does include funding for the Gatton Academy for Math and Science to support 80 additional students beginning in 2015.

The budget passed by the House includes bond funding for the Thompson Complex project and money to expand the Gatton Academy. But it also contains a 2.5 percent cut to higher education funding.

The Senate spending plan restored that higher education funding cut at the expense of most university capital projects.

Kevin Willis

A program being used at WKU is providing a better idea of what can be done to prevent students from leaving school before completing their degree.

The MAP-Works system helps identify at-risk students who take a voluntary survey. Students who appear to be struggling receive direct intervention by WKU faculty and staff who direct the student to programs that can help with academic, financial, or health issues.

Lindsey Gilmore, with the WKU enrollment management office, says she assumed money problems would be the top reason why students drop out. But she says MAP-Works shows that’s not the case.

"Generally, what MAP-Works does is let us see about five top issues our students are facing per classification, and lack of financial confidence is always in the top five, but it’s never number one."

Gilmore says MAP-Works shows the biggest stressors for WKU students include homesickness, test anxiety, study habits, and low peer connections.

More than 5,400 WKU students have been contacted or met with in person this academic year about their survey results. Gilmore says the school is working to get more students to take the MAP-Works survey. A little over 27 percent of WKU students completed the survey last fall.

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