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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Rebuttal: Improving college graduation rates comes from real solutions, not niceties

    On Tuesday, Arizona Daily Wildcat columnist Andres Dominguez disputed a suggestion from Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who said tying 10 percent of state funding to the graduation rates of Texas universities would increase success. To maximize the success of public universities, including the UA, it’s important to re-examine the attitudes of students and administrators.
    Columnist Hollie Dowdle disagrees:

    If you had the option to enroll in a four-year degree program that cost $10,000, would you do it?

    Texas Gov. Rick Perry shared fresh ideas last week about increasing the affordability and efficiency of higher education by tying state universities’ graduation rates to 10 percent of state funding. In addition, he asked more schools to implement four-year bachelor’s degrees that can be completed for $10,000.

    Fellow Wildcat columnist Andres Dominguez doubted such a program’s ability to increase graduation rates at Texas schools or nationwide, including at the UA. He questioned the goals of the proposal and the necessity of threatening to reduce the UA’s state funding. Instead of using monetary incentive to up graduation rates, he argued that encouraging faculty and improving students’ attitudes would be more successful.

    Although Dominguez’s concerns are valid, Perry’s ideas are innovative and more likely to increase college graduation rates than simply “encouraging” students to graduate on time.

    If such programs were ever implemented at any state university, whether in Texas or at the UA, there would be extensive communication between the school leaders and statewide higher education leaders. They would not enforce some sort of ruthless graduation quota that would be impossible for universities to meet in order to receive that 10 percent of state funding. The point of incentive programs is to make schools better by increasing retention and graduation rates, not to purposefully withhold money.

    Furthermore, meeting the standards of such a policy for the first few years would be difficult, considering the UA’s 40-percent graduation rate, but if there was a four-year bachelor degree program that only cost $10,000, students would bust their asses to graduate on time.

    With that kind of incentive, graduation rates would definitely increase. The chance to save money while completing a coveted degree would inspire students who could not otherwise afford college.

    Besides, even if the UA did miss out on 10 percent of its state funding while it was acclimating to a new program, Dominguez pointed out that plenty of the UA’s programs don’t rely heavily on state funding. The beginning of a new program always requires adjustment, and the UA would make do.

    Although Dominguez argues “general apathy” among students would derail such a program, offering a $10,000 degree would be a total wake-up call. Participating in such a program would save a student thousands of dollars.

    “If we are to improve our graduation rate, we must first improve the quality of our education,” Dominguez writes, and that the first step is to “refrain from telling students that half of them are going to drop out.”

    News flash: Having an “encouraging and supportive faculty” is all very nice, but increasing faculty niceness won’t save the UA’s graduation rate. Refraining from telling students that they might end up dropping out is not “improving the quality of education.”
    Caring and enlightening teachers can help students stay positive when they’re struggling with school. However, this is not the ultimate solution to increasing graduation rates across the country.

    Tying 10 percent of state funding to a university’s graduation rate will inspire schools to implement programs to get students in and out of college efficiently. Programs like four-year, $10,000 bachelor degrees are the perfect incentives for students.

    — Hollie Dowdle is a journalism junior. She can be reached at letters@wildcat.arizona.edu or on Twitter via @WildcatOpinions .

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