The Times West Virginian

December 13, 2013

Students must be equipped with needed knowledge as they enter college

Times West Virginian

— We often have the goal of seeing students move on to college after graduating from high school.

Getting them there is one thing. Keeping them there is another.

A recent report found that many in-state students just aren’t earning a degree after six years. An annual graduation report presented to an interim legislative committee showed that less than half of in-state freshmen who enrolled in fall 2005 actually earned their degrees after six years. Only West Virginia University was the exception, with a six-year graduation rate of 56 percent.

For other state schools, the rates weren’t as positive, according to the 2012 report. They are: Marshall University, 44 percent; Shepherd University, 43 percent; West Liberty University, 41 percent; Concord University, 38 percent; Fairmont State University, 34 percent, Glenville State College, 30 percent; Bluefield State College, 25 percent; WVU Tech, 24 percent; and West Virginia State University, 21 percent.

While graduation rates at Fairmont State, Shepherd and West Liberty were about the same or better than peer schools, that’s not exactly the place we want to be.

“In some cases, the standard isn’t very high,” said Senate Education Chairman Robert Plymale, D-Wayne said during the interim meeting. “Exceeding your peers and only having a 38 percent graduation rate, or 41 percent, to me, that’s still not acceptable.”

Higher education officials have set a goal of at least a 6 percent increase in graduation rates.

There’s a lot of work to be done, but it doesn’t rest completely with retention on the collegiate level.

College preparation through the public school system is going to be key in seeing these numbers increase. Consider that nearly 26 percent of West Virginia freshmen enrolling in our state colleges in 2012 had to complete at least one development courses in the fall semester. At Fairmont State, 42.6 percent of freshmen had to enroll in development courses.

That means that nearly half of the students in college essentially had to relearn material they should have already mastered in high school before moving on to higher education level classes.

We simply have to do better.

We are on the ground floor of an education reform in this state because of the new flexibility offered from No Child Left Behind requirements.

We have the opportunity to make sure that students are equipped with exactly what they need when they move from classrooms in high school to college lecture halls.