Florida A & M University has implemented a coordinated new initiative designed to improve four-year graduation rates for first-time college students.
The new program, Finish in Four, expands upon a previous effort that improved the institution’s six-year graduation rates over the past several years.
In addition to restructuring the student advisement program, Finish in Four seeks to educate students about the importance of graduating on time and provides changes in the advisement process, additional resources and incentives.
“Currently, the University’s graduation rate is about 23 percent,” said Carl Goodman, associate provost for Undergraduate Education. “As an institution, we want our four-year graduation rates at above or in the mid-30s. Realistically, the state wants everyone’s graduation rate to be above 40 percent.”
Because of myriad disparities, students from underrepresented racial/ethnic groups – African-Americans, Latino and American Indian students – have historically struggled with lower graduation rates, according to a national 2016 report from the U.S. Department of Education.
“The rate of college degree attainment for black and Hispanic college students is approximately half that of white students, and even more stark a difference compared to Asian/Pacific Islander students,” said the Advancing Diversity and Inclusion in Higher Education report.
FAMU’s six-year graduation rate reached an historic 48 percent this year after remaining steady for years at 38-39 percent. Nationally, HBCUs range between 25-40 percent for six-year-graduation rates.
Goodman credited the six-year graduation rate improvements to a multi-pronged approach that included a collaboration of several university departments and staff and improving student-athlete graduation rates.
Goodman said some additional highlights of Finish in Four include:
Informing students of the positive and negative results of not graduating on time
Encouraging freshmen to sign up for tutoring services that are offered 24/7
Providing incentives for high GPAs and staying on track
Providing additional funding for students facing financial constraints
The university also put student advisement under the Office of Student Affairs, Goodman said. It is a change, he said, that impacts the students from the moment they step on campus to the moment they graduate.
William Hudson, vice president of Student Affairs, said the changes will have a positive impact on the entire campus community.
“This is everyone’s responsibility to promote success, and hold everyone accountable,” Hudson said. “This is not just an effort to be made by advisors or administration.”
As part of the transition to the more aggressive plan, administrators said additional support is being given to help the students adjust, including providing them with career maps to determine what is their best-fit major.