FAMU four-year graduation rate declines

FAMU’s four-year graduation rate declines 7%.
Photo courtesy: famu.edu

Many refer to their college years as the best four years of their life. However, four years can
turn into more if a university’s inner workings are not equipped for maneuvering its students in
and out within eight semesters.

FAMU is one of 12 institutions in Florida’s public university system. According to the 2020 data
from  the State University System of Florida , FAMU has the lowest four-year graduation rate at

The rating for students entering in 2016-2020 was 34.6%, a 6.9% improvement from the most
recent stats from the 2017-2021 data. The university was striving to increase the score to 38%
and fell short by more than 10%.

According to Vice President of Student Affairs William Hudson and Associate Provost Lewis
Johnson, the university is actively working to increase the percentage in numerous ways.

Why is the graduation rate important for university success? Four-year graduation rates give
prospective students an idea of how many years it could take before they earn their degree.
Compared to other universities, this may be a deal breaker during a student’s decision-making

High school seniors searching for a university may be reluctant to commit to an institution that
graduates almost more than two-thirds of its students in four years. Extra semesters working
on a degree cost more money and prolong career goals.

Data like four-year graduation and retention rates are definitive numbers that leave universities
on the hook for creating goals and establishing ways to meet them.

During the 2022 President’s Convocation, Larry Robinson noted that 84% of first-year students
returned for their second year with a grade point average higher than 2.0.

“Students are being retained at a much higher rate. What that means, too, is the fact that
students are now graduating quicker than they have ever before,” Robinson said.

There are many scenarios where even universities with exceptional graduation rates cannot
help a student graduate in four years due to personal factors such as change of major, financial
stability, health complications and overall satisfaction with their new environment.

Students who do not have the financial means to pay back-to-back for eight semesters of
school may take a semester or two off to work full-time and save up for tuition.

Johnson, the associate provost, said the university is aware that “life happens” and exterior
forces hinder students from staying on their academic tracks. FAMU is mindful of these
shortcomings and is stepping in where it can.

FAMU  issued $41.5 million in tuition and fee assistance for the 2021-2022 academic year to
combat the financial instability and encourage students to continue their degree plans as
scheduled. The previous year, $16 million was allocated to clear outstanding balances in
students’ accounts.

Hudson explained the importance of the first-year students’ experience, their adaptation to
college life, and the correlation with the retention rate. First-Year Experience (FYE) is a program
dedicated to the success of freshmen and their adjustment to “the hill.” These resources
encourage students to be proactive rather than reactive.

The university implemented resources such as academic coaches, virtual and in-person
tutoring, and Live-Learn Communities to promote stimulating academic spaces for student

“We’ve increased the number of academic advisers, created academic coaches, and
implemented grade recover programs,” Hudson said.

Academic coaches work with students on study skills and time management skills. In addition,
Live-Learn Communities is a program for first-year students to help them stay academically and
socially motivated in and out of the classroom.

“Being in cohorts is important for a sense of belonging,” Johnson said.

Definitive factors behind the decrease in the four-year graduation rate have not been
identified. Despite the percentage drop, FAMU moved from No. 104 to No. 103 among all
public colleges and universities in the U.S News and World Report Best College Rankings that
came out earlier this week. And FAMU retained its standing as the top-ranked public HBCU.