Study follows path to graduation success

Jeff Bell
Jeffrey Bell, biology department chair. Photo courtesy of Chico State.

One in three Chico State first-time freshmen did not graduate from the university in a study spanning from 2005 to 2013.

The study was created by the provost’s office to help come up with ideas to improve graduation rates at the college, said Jeffrey Bell, leader of the data task group and chair of the biology department. It followed only students who started at Chico in 2005 and did not attend any other universities previously.

The methods used to gather the data tracked only the students who came back year after year, Bell said. It isn’t clear whether the one-third who didn’t graduate transferred to other universities, were still attending Chico State after eight years or had dropped out.

Regarding those that graduated, the task group made several discoveries.

The average time to earn a degree for all Chico State freshmen who started in 2005 was about 10 semesters, or five years.

Freshmen who come in as undeclared majors don’t take any longer to graduate than freshmen who enter with a declared major, according to the study.

About 60 percent of graduates had ended up switching to a different department, with a half of them graduating in a completely different college than the one they started in.

While there were key differences between those who graduated and those who didn’t, there was no correlation between graduation rates and SAT scores or the student’s high school GPA.

“It’s like how they say ‘what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas,'” Bell said. “What happens in high school stays in high school. The data says it’s a fresh start.”

The biggest key to success is what the students did in the first semester, Bell said. The freshmen who graduated the fastest were all students who took 15 or more units in their first semester.

Freshmen who had a lower GPA in their first semester tended to take longer, as well as those who took a lower average of units each semester.

“It’s all about making that transition from high school,” Bell said. “You go from your parents helping you out with your living and homework to your first college semester on your own.”

Enrique Raymundo can be reached at [email protected] or @ERaymundoCV on Twitter.