UA graduating class increases for fifth consecutive year
by Michelle Saport |
The numbers of degrees, certifications and endorsements that will be awarded to University of Alaska students this spring are projected to show an increase of more than 28 percent over the 3,427 degrees awarded in the 2009 academic year.
The UA Board of Regents expects to confer approximately 4,400 degrees, certificates and endorsements during 17 commencement celebrations across the state this May. The upward trend in degrees awarded in recent years has been driven by large increases in the number of baccalaureates, occupational endorsements and licensures. Degrees awarded in high-demand job areas like health care, education, fisheries, seafood, maritime, mining and engineering are also projected to improve, with a target of 2,964 degrees awarded by the end of the current academic year. An increase of more than 21 percent from 2009.
Nationally, attention on higher education has focused on student retention rates, debt levels and graduation rates. There is demand to better define the path for collegiate success so that students are positioned to attain their educational goals in a timely and cost-effective manner. Because of this shift, there is a growing demand from both parents and students for universities to be more transparent regarding the overall cost of attaining a college degree.
The University of Alaska launched Stay on Track, an outreach campaign educating students on the benefits of graduating in fewer years for less money and with less debt, to address these concerns. The campaign features steps that can be taken to reduce costs and map out a timely path to graduation. Advising is the most critical step, but it does require a student to pick a program or major early and stick with it for optimal results. Students are reminded that in order to attain 120 credits in four years (the average number required for a degree program), at least 30 credits must be earned each year.
Each campus has tailored its approach to improving advising services for students, and each campus is seeing those efforts rewarded with reduced attrition rates and growing numbers of students completing their education programs. Programs like UAS's Academic Early Alert
System help reduce the percentage of students leaving the university before graduation by identifying risk factors such as declining test scores, absenteeism, dropping classes or falling below a passing grade.
The university is also partnering with Alaska's high schools since graduation rates and timeliness are closely tied to some basic pre-college characteristics. UA is helping develop a database for tracking individual students throughout their entire school career so that performance concerns and educational shortfalls can be addressed before they leave elementary and secondary systems, enabling university advisors to more accurately place and guide students as they enter post-secondary study.