Since When Is Graduating Less Than Half Of Students Performing Well?


According to an emailed press release sent out by the North Dakota University System today, the state’s universities are “performing very well.” Those were the words used in the subject line of the email and the press release itself.

It’s a ridiculous assertion given the “diploma mill” scandal at Dickinson State University, the skyrocketing tuition and fee rates, the rampant overspending in the system and the consistent abuse of power by university officials. But even setting all of that aside, take a gander at this graph from the report (the entirety of which is embedded below):

First note that freshman retention rates are in significant decline, and are currently below national average. The freshman retention rate is the number of freshman students who re-enroll the following year.

Second, note the university system is graduating less than half of two-year students within three years of their starting. More than a third of four-year students don’t graduate after six years.

If this is “performing well” what would performing poorly look like? And I wonder if the hundreds of “diploma mill” degrees handed out by Dickinson State University were included in these numbers?

To be sure, these low retention and graduation rates are a national problem. They are part of the higher education bubble. We’re simply sending too many kids to college. Kids who have no business going to college are attending and either dropping out or graduating with some generic, largely useless degree all while accumulating significant amounts of debt.

This works fine for the universities, of course, because they get paid up front.

12 2011 Accountability Measures Report

Rob Port is the editor of In 2011 he was a finalist for the Watch Dog of the Year from the Sam Adams Alliance and winner of the Americans For Prosperity Award for Online Excellence. In 2013 the Washington Post named SAB one of the nation's top state-based political blogs, and named Rob one of the state's best political reporters.

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  • Gern Blanston

    Its all very depresing when you have a 10 yr old slowly approaching college age…

    • Broadway Joe

      Gern….take a look at the private colleges around here…in  a lot of cases they are less expensive than the public schools

  • The Whistler

    I think what they meant is that the sky high tuition and ever increasing support from the taxpayers mean the faculty and administration of the universities are hardly having to work while living large.  

  • Tim Heise

    wow. That is pathetic.

  • borborygmi

    Raise the acceptance level for the students.  Min ACT of 25

    • Rob

      Or just expect students to pay their own way.

      • borborygmi

        If they are taking out loans they are expected to pay their own way.    If they don’t pay their loans and they are gov’t backed the gov’t goes after them by taking any tax refund due them from them.  Seen it happen with co workers.
          If the students don’t expect to pay back the loans look to parenting.  I could see the first year without loans then take loans out if grades, progression towards graduation aren’t achieved.
               Make it more difficult to get in and you will get the serious student.  Won’t be full proof but then nothing is.  
              I have two sons both graduated in the 4 year period, both with half ride scholarships to private Universities, both with loans and both with exceptional careers and both with loans either paid off  or paying off.  They would not have been able to go to those Universities without Loans.   
             How do you come to the conclusion that loans is not paying your own way.
        If loans weren’t paying your own way how do you support mortgages, car loans, home improvement loans.

        • Caeslinger

          I think the issue with the loans is their ease of acquiring one.  There should be maybe a bit more of a ‘down-payment’ aspect to it.

          However, with respect to the numbers of when people graduated.  I know a lot of people who continually change their major – and are not dissuaded from changing their because its easy to get another loan – and therefore pass your mark for graduating in time.

          • borborygmi

            A percentage down is not a bad idea.  Hell you have to with a car or a house.  I think if the student or prospective student has received scholarships either for brains or brawn that those should be considered as part of the down payment.  They did the work to earn the scholarship.   Again not a guarantee that they will pan out buy a higher degree of confidence that they will.

    • Opinionated

      Borborygmi…. EXACTLY this is exactly what we need… Parents will finally wake up and wacth how there kids are performing long before college gets here… If the students do not achieve a 25 then they will not be entitled to taxpayer money to attend a 4 year university. The colleges will never do this .. this is not even the median score at UND or NDSU but it is at the U of Mary

      • borborygmi

        I will bet the U of Mary has a better retention rate and graduation rate.

  • Willis Forster

    If you just count graduation rates you are just counting diplomas. Diplomas are no longer a measure of learning, many learn little more than those foreign students that bought their diplomas. When students can major in ethnic studies, gender studies, and sexual orientation studies and get a diploma, what is that worth to the country and the taxpayer that heavily subsidized those 4 years of drunken sex orgies.

    • Tim Heise

      You have a great point of which agree however I think graduation rates are a good start to analizing the problem. The worth of the degree is another important topic. When I lived in california a local university had to count programs and they decided to cut the nursing program over the Queer Studies program (real name).

    • Opinionated

      you forgot culinary school, graphic arts, art history, philosophy, african/american studies, communications, dance, english lit, latin, film..all a total waste of time… but you will feel good with those degrees

  • borborygmi

    How many on this board have had school loans for an education, and the education benefitted them in their careers?  I will raise my hand.  I will raise my wifes hand also. My two sons hands.    University isn’t for everyone (as Rob has apparently found out)  but for those that it is loans aren’t particularly a bad thing.

  • awfulorv

    There is a correlation, I believe, between money extended to students, and how they view  their need to study. 

  • Ratbite

     Say what are the graduation rates for the foreign students?? you know the ones that are here in ND being educated cuz they have no expenses like tuition & fees that our kids have to take out loans to cover. I’ll wagers it a lot higher than the rates for our children cuz the foreigners do not have to worry about paying back  a small fortune in student loans.

    • The Whistler

       It seems that in at least one of the schools the graduation rate was 100% as long as the check cleared. 

  • RCND

    My favorite part of the report is Core Values of the North Dakota University System:

    •High integrity

    •Open, honest, forthright and mutually respectful in discussion and actions



    •Cooperative, valued partner with other state agencies and entities

    •Responsible stewards of the state investment in the University System

    •Scholarship and the pursuit of excellence in the discovery, sharing and application of knowledge

    •Support and embrace diversity

    I am pretty sure they are falling way short on most the above. It is almost beyond embarrassing they put these values in their report

  • Andrew T

    That really is not very good.. Luckily I will soon be graduating from college =)