24.7.13

POTEMKIN RETENTION?

George Leef at Phi Beta Cons links to a complaint from a former employee of Winston-Salem State University that suggests shying away from raising an institution's academic profile to boost enrollments backfires.
Because of WSSU’s low graduation rate, school officials had to decide whether to change its admission standards and move to attract a higher quality of student, or to lower course standards to make it appear that students were more successful. During faculty and staff meetings, this was discussed and the chancellor stated that he did not want to change the “look” of WSSU. Raising admission standards would mean fewer students on campus and therefore less state money flowing in.

The path the administration took was to make it seem as though students were doing better. Of course, there was no official statement to that effect, but I realized that was the case after faculty members began to share their concerns and frustration with me.

Many stated that they were under pressure to decrease the material in the courses and increase the passing rates. They feared that they would be released if they didn’t. Other faculty members expressed concern that students were held to different standards depending on their race. Some said that they thought school officials were changing grades they had entered.

Although those complaints were disturbing, I had no proof and I had to operate as if they were only rumors.
That's where market tests matter. If employers send recruiters to job fairs, and graduate programs accept your seniors, stay the course. It doesn't require assessors or counselors or rubrics to steer that course, only a faculty committed to doing the right thing, and a decanal order that doesn't undermine the faculty.

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