College graduation rates in Hawaii fall behind national average

College graduation rates in Hawaii fall behind national average

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - By: Jim Mendoza

A new White House website shows only 11 percent of students at University of Hawaii's Maui College graduate. The College Scorecard shows low graduation rates at all seven community colleges in the UH system.  Kauai Community College is one of the highest at only 22 percent.

"It does raise some concerns about the fact that the graduation rates are between a quarter to a half of the national average," said Rep. Linda Ichiyama, vice chair of the state House Higher Education Committee.

"We do not find the numbers acceptable," UH vice president of community colleges John Morton said.

But Morton said the scorecard omits important data. It counts only first-year, full-time students, and excludes students who transfer into and out of the system.

"And if you combine the two, you put the graduation plus the transfer numbers, then it gets to be about 35 or 40 percent, which is pretty close to the national average for community colleges," he said.

To improve graduation rates, UH is pushing students to complete their community college studies within 3 years.

"It takes too long," Morton said.  "We've got a major effort underway right now to speed up that process."

Along those lines, Ichiyama said lawmakers are working on a program called GPS.

"It tracks their degree requirements and it also lays out for them the steps they need to take in order to complete their degree," she said.

About 30,000 full and part-time students are enrolled in UH's community colleges this year.  One bright spot in the Scorecard for UH is cost.

"You can get a great education at a significantly lower price within the community colleges," Morton said.

The Scorecard also lists a college's annual tuition and a student's average salary after graduating. The graduation rate at UH Manoa was the state's best at 56 percent, well above the national average of 44 percent. Last week, U.S. News and World Report ranked UH 161 out of 1,800 colleges it surveyed for its 2016 ranking.

"These rankings demonstrate that we are truly among the great universities of the world. We're also pleased to see that, in terms of a student's cost to attend, we're actually ranked below the average nationally," UH Chancellor Robert Bley-Vroman said.

The Scorecard lists Hawaii Pacific University's graduation rate at 40 percent.

"It is important to view any data and ranking in context. For example, national metrics are often built for the traditional 18-21 year-old group of students, while HPU, like other Hawaii universities, enrolls students who are much more diverse in age and background," HPU provost Matthew Liao-Troth said.

Chaminade's graduation rate is listed at 37 percent. But the school's director of communications said that figure is outdated.

"The federal college scorecard figure is based on the previous academic year," Kapono Ryan said. "Our rate for the most recent academic year was 40 percent, according to our Chaminade enrollment management officials."

To see the federal website, click HERE.

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