Graduation rate slipping below national average

By Dolores Fischer
Pulse Staff Reporter

Photo of caps and gowns in boxes

Alamo College’s graduation rate ranks below the national average according to a 2015 study done by The Aspen Institute, an educational and policy studies organization.

Alamo Colleges scored in the 27 percentile compared to the national average of 39 percent on our three-year graduation and transfer rate.

Arianna Lay, advising team leader for Palo Alto Colleges Service Education Empowerment Diversity Advising Center, said that although the Alamo College numbers are below the national average, the numbers in the study are the numbers from one freshman cohort.

Every year the college’s incoming freshman class is considered a cohort, and the college tracks that cohort during its four-year course to determine how many graduate with an associate’s degree. Lay also said the numbers for Alamo Colleges are lower than the national average because the colleges have many part-time and developmental students who take longer than four years to graduate; some take up to six years.

She said that 80 percent of incoming freshman will take at least one developmental class, which could affect how long it takes them to graduate; developmental courses don’t count toward a degree.

Lay said that the college has two types of reporting data: the data on the national level and the data on the local level. The local level is how many awards and certificates the colleges have awarded from all years, not just the cohort.

Prior to Alamo Colleges implementing the new program AlamoADVISE, the colleges had already started an increased presence of student advisors and intrusive advising, Lay said. The program consisted of the Welcome Advising Center, which case managed all freshman students throughout their first year. Graduate Advisors managed students with 42 or more hours, and Undergraduate Advisors managed the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) majors. This program transitioned to AlamoADVISE in the summer of 2014.

AlamoADVISE is a program where students are assigned an advisor from start to completion of their college career. There are 350 students assigned to each advisor who work with them on a case-by-case basis so they do not take unnecessary classes. Even if a student changes his or her major, the advisor continues to advise them; the only exception to this rule is if the student changes their major to a technology or cosmetology field.

Isabella Whitherspoon, senior Liberal Arts major, said she loves having one advisor.

“She knows who I am and she knows what I am going for,” said Whitherspoon.

Whitherspoon, who took dual credit courses in high school, credits her advisor for keeping her on track. She will graduate on time; however, Whitherspoon said a lot of students take longer to graduate because they only attend school part time.

In the Palo Alto Fact Book of 2014-205, Fall 2014 enrollment by full-time students was at 18.3 percent and part time enrollment was at 81.7 percent. In order to graduate with a bachelor’s degree in four years, a student must take 30 hours of college credit courses per year.

AlamoADVISE has made an impact on Alamo College graduates.

“They pay attention to you,” said Destinee Cantu, sophomore Criminal Justice major. She said her advisor has helped her make the right decisions on which classes to take toward her major through one-on-one sessions.

This year, Alamo Colleges has a goal to award 1,287 certificates from August 2015 to August 2016 compared to 937 in 2013-2014.

Rose Davis, coordinator of Student Success Admissions and Records Department, said Palo Alto as of April 2016 has processed 626 applications for the spring graduation with 496 of them being associate’s degrees and 130 workforce certificates. She said 179 will be 2015 fall graduates.

Graduation will take place Saturday, May 21, at 3 p.m. in the Freeman Coliseum.