It is no surprise to most Parkside students and staff that the university has low graduation and retention rates, the lowest in the UW System, actually. Fewer than four out of ten freshmen who start out at UW-Parkside graduate from UW-Parkside; most end up transferring to another college or dropping out altogether. A 2002 statistic states that only 38.4% of students who started out at Parkside as freshmen graduated from the school by 2008. By comparison, the graduation rate for the UW System as a whole is 65.1%: UW-Milwaukee’s is 47.9%, and UW-Madison’s rate is 84%.
Numbers have not gotten better in recent years. In the fall of 2007, 833 freshmen entered UW-Parkside. The following year, only 64.3% of those freshmen returned as sophomores, again, the lowest number in the UW-System. Of the students who returned for sophomore year, only 49.8% of them returned to Parkside for junior year!
So, what is the reason for such low graduation and retention rates? It could be explained by the fact that UW-Parkside isn’t as selective about admitting students as some other UW schools; students with lower overall ACT scores and lower class ranks are admitted to Parkside. There are also a large number of first-generation college students and low income students enrolled, who often drop out because they can’t afford tuition and fees. Nationally, low-income students have a graduation rate of 20%.
The university is trying to increase these rates in a number of ways. For starters, the Academic Skills classes, which do not earn students credit towards graduation, but rather improve basic skills, may possibly be offered in the summer before the school year. This would allow incoming freshmen to get these classes out of the way faster so they can begin earning credit toward graduation immediately in their first semester. Improvements will be made in advising and communication between students and counselors so that students will know sooner if they are at risk of failing or not graduating. In addition, the Student Support Services is a resource center designed for low-income and first generation students to obtain support and help periodically until they graduate.
The university can only do so much, however. The decision to stay at Parkside or not is completely up to the student; students often transfer because of a change in major choice. Whatever the case, UW-Parkside’s future graduation and retention statistics remain to be seen; only time will tell if these new policies will have any effect. In time, we will see if the changes currently in process will make any difference.
Story by Rachel DePalma