4/6 Year Graduation Rates (66%/82%): Why are they so (relatively) low at Oberlin?

<p>D'Yer -</p>

<p>You are welcome for the numbers . . . which, I need to say, still leave Oberlin somewhat short of the retention figures of other (what I think of as) comparable schools (e.g., Wesleyan, Vassar, etc.) </p>

<p>The reason I was focusing in on your specific language is that I had the impression that - all else being equal - you viewed a school with a lower retention rate as lesser than a school with a higher retention rate. Whatever the reason - lack of cultural unifiers, more free-spirited students - Oberlin ends up with more students that do not do the "4 and out" undergraduate dance as much as some other schools, and I was trying to make the point that it was not as problematic as you appeared to believe. I did not believe that you were accusing the college of anything I though it was a way of your saying that lesser retention = lesser school. True? </p>

<p>A subset of the "should everyone go to college" question is the "should everyone graduate in 4 years" question. The obvious answer to both is no. Looking at college systems, ideally we would have schools in which - everything else being equal except for whether one takes 4 or 6 years to graduate - kids can be as challenged academically as possible. It would be a shame if the only place to get high academic challenge were schools in which taking more than 4 years to graduate was a culturally suspect practice. </p>

<p>That’s why I'm grateful for Oberlin . . . If my child happens to want to take some time off then go back and complete college that's fine with me, which is one appeal to me of Oberlin over its comparable LACs. In your situation, you appeared to be wondering if a school in which taking 5 - or 6 - or 7 years to graduate (for whatever reason) would be a worse fit for your child than a school in which the cultural expectation is to graduate without taking time off. That will be an interesting discussion, a subset of both the "best fit academically" and "best fit socially" topics.</p>

<p>Kei
Parent of an Obie Class of 2014</p>

<p>3treasures - their web site says different: 81% in 5 years
SF Conservatory 55% in 4
others had rates ranging from low 50s in 4 to Julliards 81% in 4</p>

<p>*Kei-o-lei *- Thanks...and I appreciate where you're coming from.</p>

<p>I tried to not impose a value judgment on the numbers -- at least until I had some idea of what was behind them. I've posted lots of verbiage in this thread, so I don't expect you to have read all of it, but earlier I mentioned an example from my career in which I was with two different organizations that had unusually high attrition rates (at least over a limited time period) and how I viewed one being fueled by a toxic work environment while the other was a function of the place being a terrific launching pad for careers, enabling the people who left to seize fabulous opportunities elsewhere. So, until one understands "why" the trend exists, there's just no way to know if you're looking at something that's attractive, repulsive or something in between. All I could see was that there was something different. Whether that difference was bad or good was something I wanted to explore.</p>

<p>There is one definite negative to an extended undergraduate career (as I see things)...and that would be spending those 6 or 7 years at the school, paying tuition. That was my big, economic concern. I recall seeing a news report about a guy in his 30s who had never graduated college. Okay, well, that's true for lots of people. But that whole time he was living in a dorm, taking classes (full-time) and then switching majors just before obtaining the credits needed to graduate. The college even changed its requirements (or maybe it was the state legislature) and -- if I'm recalling this correctly -- he obtained a court ruling that the new rule could not be applied to existing students. That's one of the multiple paths, too. And if spending the extra time on MY dime is the plan, that was something I needed to know because, even if that's a good path, it's not an affordable path for him (well, me). (Fortunately, that was something that dave72 took off the table right away.)</p>

<p>He'll visit campus next fall, probably do an overnight, and those are the impressions that will be dispositive, from his end, as to where he'll want to start his undergraduate journey. Like I said, I'm just a dad with numbers and Internet access exploring the colleges that appeal to my S -- which is only slightly less dangerous than trying to use the Internet to make medical diagnoses.</p>

<p>I got the 97% from the CIM FAQ page - don't know why you are getting a different figure???</p>

<p>@threetreasurs: [url=<a href="http://www.cim.edu/about/fastfacts.php%5DCIM"&gt;http://www.cim.edu/about/fastfacts.php]CIM&lt;/a> | About Us<a href="Click" title="Graduation & Retention Rates">/url</a></p>

<p>My 2 cents - While at Oberlin, I felt it was acceptable socially and by the admin to take time off. In my case, I went on a year long study abroad program. After 1 semester, I found that I was not getting what I sought out of this program so I basically dropped out of the program, and Oberlin, while I taught english in China for another 8 months. I was reinstated that fall and continued to get my BA that spring. I was able to do so because I had taken heavy course loads and a few summer courses before which covered for my lack of credits for that 1 semester. Teaching at that time was an excellent experience and I learned alot more than inside a classroom. Oberlin was very flexible to make it possible for me to both drop out and come right on back when I was ready. </p>

<p>Believe me, I have a spreadsheet with columns up the wazoo too, I'd like to make sure my son's decision is statistically the most accurate. Unfortunately, I think we all have to step away from the stats in the end knowing no particular outcome for our unique kid is a guarantee. Good to ask the questions though.</p>

<p>D'Yer said: "There is one definite negative to an extended undergraduate career (as I see things)...and that would be spending those 6 or 7 years at the school, paying tuition."</p>

<p>YES . . . that's the Bluto of "Animal House" approach: seven years of college down the drain - staying and paying for years - and that is to be discouraged . . . I was speaking more to the "take a break" approach: 2 years at school, 2 years off, then go back and graduate</p>

<p>I haven't seen any general data sources that separate out "total time to graduation" from "years enrolled", but my guess is that most parents handle the kind of singular anecdotal student you mentioned by just not paying for that many years.</p>

<p>I also have to say that I think it's odd to interpret "time to graduation" statistics as indicating that the kids were in school all that time; a strained interpretation that you as a a parent have complete control of ("I'm paying for 8 semester is all")</p>

<p>And I would think that those kids of schools - where it's OK to buy 12 or 14 semesters of education and where the parents have that kind of dough - would be high up on the "Entitlement Index" (% students from private schools + percentage of students who do not qualify for need-based aid) </p>

<p>Oberlin has a 76; Dickinson an 85; Wesleyan a 96; Williams a 102 (with 58% of students too well-off to qualify for need-based aid); and Davidson a 119</p>

<p>weird
CIM</a> | College Studies
lists 97%</p>

<p>RE CIM, my guess is there 's something funny with that "student right to know" statistic.</p>

<p>I haven't heard of and don't know any Oberlin students who have been continually enrolled for more than five years. However, I have heard of several students at Oberlin taking time off. It is an acceptable thing to do here. Oberlin's really not the kind of place that focuses on churning out as many people in 4 years as possible; yes, 4 years is the expected timeframe, but I also know that Oberlin likes to concentrate on making sure that its students are happy and well, and if a student needs time off for whatever reason, Oberlin will not hesitate to give it to them.</p>

<p>I also disagree with the idea that Oberlin is a "tough" place. I have received much personal support here - from advisers, from professors, from one of our two first-year deans. I don't think that the relatively low graduation rate has anything to do with a lack of a support system.</p>

<p>Quaere and others have done a great job summarizing some of the factors behind Oberlin's relatively lower graduation rates. It's true that the Conservatory has a big effect on the numbers, and it's also true that most students who take longer to graduate are doing so because of taking time off, not because of spending additional semesters at Oberlin. Having sat through several presentations by Oberlin's Director of Institutional Research about our retention rate, the only other thing I have to add is this:</p>

<p>Relative to our peer schools, Oberlin enrolls more students with certain known "risk factors" that correlate with lower graduation rates. These include things like a lack of religious affiliation and a perception that they are attending college to learn things (vs. for preparation for employment). There were many other factors mentioned-- I don't remember all the details and don't know anything about the underlying research that shows why certain personal characteristics statistically result in lower college graduation rates. I just wanted to make the point that research has been done showing that the personal characteristics of Oberlin's student body (as compared to students at our peer institutions) does have an effect on our graduation rates, because our students have a higher incidence of risk factors that are correlated with lower rates of persistence to graduation.</p>

<p>Elizabeth, are you being politically correct? How is religious affiliation or lack thereof a "risk factor at Oberlin?" Everyone knows the deal before they arrive. Oberlin isn't exactly Billy Graham University (thank God). I almost get the feeling you really mean something else but wrote "lack of religious affiliation" because it is safer to mention.</p>

<p>By the way, from the point of view Oberlin's staff and administration, which colleges are considered "peer schools?"</p>

<p>Interesting . However, that to a degree flies in the face of the US News findings I referenced in #17. They compute predicted graduation rates, based on variables related to student entrance stats and institutional spending. Undoubtedly derived via regression analysis over all the colleges. And, for the two years I looked at, Oberlin's actual graduation rate equaled its predicted graduation rate.</p>

<p>If Oberlin took more risks than other colleges, one might have expected their actual graduation rates to be systematically lower than the predicted rates. But that wasn't the result, in those two years anyway. Admittedly a greater sampling of years would be needed to establish anything.</p>

<p>I wonder what the "R-square" is for US News' regression analysis, using only statistics in those two categories. I'm guessing it's pretty high. Meaning variables in these two categories alone closely predict the observed graduation rates, at colleges generally and not much differently at Oberlin.</p>

<p>But I could be mistaken.
.</p>

<p>Elizabeth is not being "politically correct." Research has shown that students who lack a religious affiliation are more apt to drop out of college. You'll have to draw your own conclusions as to why that might be so.</p>

<p>One other "risk factor" that hasn't been mentioned: Oberlin accepts a considerably higher percentage of students with high financial need than most of its peers. While we meet their full financial need as assessed by FAFSA, some of those students no doubt feel more stress from a variety of factors than students who are better off financially, which may in turn lead some to leave before graduation. While Oberlin does everything in its power to ease the financial burden, it can't protect students from all the stresses of the real world.</p>

<p>This is the group of schools Oberlin generally regards as peer institutions: Amherst, Bowdoin, Bryn Mawr, Carleton, Colorado College, Grinnell, Haverford, Macalester, Middlebury, Pomona, Reed, Smith, Swarthmore, Wellesley, Wesleyan, Williams.</p>

<p>
[quote]
This is the group of schools Oberlin generally regards as peer institutions: Amherst, Bowdoin, Bryn Mawr, Carleton, Colorado College, Grinnell, Haverford, Macalester, Middlebury, Pomona, Reed, Smith, Swarthmore, Wellesley, Wesleyan, Williams

[/quote]
</p>

<p>Interesting. Thank you. May I ask why Kenyon is not on the list? It's in Ohio, not far from Oberlin, and applicant stats (last time I checked) are the equal of Macalester, Bryn Mawr, and Colorado College.</p>

<p>By the way, I'm struggling with the religion thing. I'd love to see the research on that one. How does a religious affiliation keep one in school longer or make one less prone to drop out? Just having an affiliation seems too weak, too implausible. One can have an "affiliation" without having attended church/synagogue/temple in ten years or more. Could it be the level or degree that one practices one's faith is determinative because it somehow provides the individual with direction? Otherwise, it's not logical that a mere affiliation makes you less prone to drop out. That has to be a colossal coincidence. I have an affiliation with the Episcopal Church, but I haven't been inside a church since my kids were baptized. I can't see how my "affiliation" would prevent me for doing anything regrettable or rash.</p>

<p>knock yourselves out
<a href="http://www.business.und.edu/goenner/research/Papers/BMApaperForth.pdf%5B/url%5D"&gt;http://www.business.und.edu/goenner/research/Papers/BMApaperForth.pdf&lt;/a&gt;&lt;/p>

<p>@Plainsman: There are lots of other schools that share affinities with Oberlin: Kenyon, Colby, Bates, Vassar, Bard, Davidson... We simply use a manageable subset of peer schools for comparative purposes. It's more a function of the Office of Institutional Research than anything else.</p>

<p>One thing that does not seem to be (or should not be) a factor in extending the time to graduate are the graduation requirements, which are quite reasonable. The distribution requirements allow for a lot of flexibility and Oberlin is perhaps unusually generous in allowing for AP credits to fulfill requirements. In the majors I have looked at, the courses required for graduation were easily doable in 4 years, even without pre-college background or preparation (for example, it is possible to major in Greek or German without having taken those languages in high school). Senior projects are not required, unlike at Reed, for example (another comparable LAC, and one that also has a lower graduation rate than many colleges). The advising at Oberlin seems quite good - certainly compared to large public schools I am familiar with; all students have advisors and meet with them each semester; but students can't rely on advisors to map out their 4 year plan for accomplishing all they want before graduation; it is a good idea to look through the catalog and see when required courses are offered and in which semesters, so there are no surprises. And faculty seems quite fostering - one professor in a first year seminar actually telephoned my kid's roommate to tell him he was late for the final - this kid ended up dropping out, but it was through no lack of attention by advisors and faculty.</p>

<p>
[quote]
knock yourselves out...

[/quote]
</p>

<p>Okay, monydad. After my head nearly exploded from trying to remember how to understand Bayes Theorem or Bayesian modelling, I found this: </p>

<p>
[quote]
Bayesian model averaging, in addition to improving the prediction of graduation rates, also helps institutions to more accurately determine which institutional factors are important to educational outcomes. The results of this paper indicate that increasing the percentage of the student body that are Native American, percentage of the student body that are male, and average age each decrease an institution’s graduation rate. Evidence also supports that increasing the percentage of the student body in the top ten percent of their high school class and the SAT score of the lowest quartile both increase graduation rates. We also found that institutions in urban environments had lower graduation rates.

[/quote]
</p>

<p>And this: </p>

<p>
[quote]
There was weak evidence Pr(β≠0/D) = 56% for religious institutions having a positive effect on graduation rates

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</p>

<p>The key word being "weak." Like I said, I can't buy the religious thing ON CAMPUS driving graduation rates. It doesn't make sense. What are the graduation rates at Wheaton College in Illinois, Pepperdine University, Brigham Young, or Bob Jones U? More precisely, the study quotes religious "institutions" not "affiliations" which was the word used by Elizabeth. Perhaps by "institutions" the study was alluding to houses of worship in the vicinity of the campus - Churches, synagogues, temples, etc. - rather than the affiliation of Oberlin College to a religion or the religious affiliations of individual students.</p>

<p>So, is there a dearth of religious houses of worship in and around Oberlin, compared to other LAC towns?</p>

<p>I think by "religious institutions" they meant the college itself was religiously affiliated. Like for example Yeshiva sees a little bump in graduation rate, beyond what other variables would predict.</p>

<p>It's an open question whether this bump is due to the institution or to the religious orientation of its students, so that such students would have a similar bump even if they attended secular colleges.</p>

<p>But such students are more than typically religious. And in any event they did say they found the relationship to be weak.</p>