“Wait, I thought you graduated already,” is a common statement among Saint Peter’s University students. Around the hallways it seems that there are many faces that overstayed their intended four-years and hanging around for an extra semester or two. The opposite problem is also true: with faces often disappearing before even their second year properly kicks off, those students deciding either to transfer or drop out of Saint Peter’s.
“I know plenty of my friends that had to stay an extra year like me,” said Aaron Clemons, a 5th year senior.
This comes as no surprise since the Saint Peter’s University 4-year graduation rate is 39.1%, according to The Chronicle of Higher Education. Graduation rate is a statistic that represents how many students manage to graduate within four years without transferring, dropping out, or having come back for a fifth year.
This problem is also countywide through Hudson County in New Jersey. New Jersey City University reports 4-year graduation rates as low as 7.8%, the lowest of all 4-year graduation rates in New Jersey. The Stevens Institute of Technology, located in Hoboken, also reports graduation rates as low as 33.6%.
The graduation rate data is based on full-time undergraduate students who have not been enrolled in a college before or students who have transferred. According to the NCHEMS Information Center for Higher Education Policymaking and Analysis, the average national graduation rate at a four-year college is 55.5%. In the state of New Jersey the average graduation rate is 63.3% for their six-year graduation rate.
Saint Peter’s University
“You have to look at who the students are and the reasons why it might be taking them longer to graduate, “said Doctor Velda Goldberg, the Academic Dean of Saint Peter’s University.
The National Center for Educational Statistics show that the graduation rate is inversely proportional to their family income. The statistics show that families that are struggling economically have a higher rate of students taking longer to graduate because students aren’t just attending college, but who are also working.
“If families are struggling economically, maybe students take longer,” said Doctor Goldberg. “That is what the statistics seem to say.”
Students that only work part-time and attend college are 59.3% of the student population. Because of economic difficulties 30.1% of those full-time students have to work full-time to supplement their economic troubles.
Aaron Clemons, a fifth-year student at Saint Peter’s University who graduated last year, juggles being a full-time student along with two part-time jobs: one at Party City and one at the Saint Peter’s University bookstore.
“It is hard to have enough time do my homework and my actual work,” said Clemons. “I work through most of the day and on the weekends, and pretty much any time that I do not have class, I have work. I wish I could have more time to spend on my studies, but I need to work these two jobs.”
Another factor that may contribute to the low graduation rate at Saint Peter’s University may be due to a lack of support and advisement for students during their academic career.
“I think it’s important that students are more informed when they choose a major, what it is exactly what they have to do to complete their education,” said 5th year senior David Ward who graduated last year.
Ward felt that a big reason why he had to stay an extra two semesters was due to the apathy from his advisor and lack of guidance during his academic career.
According to Saint Peter’s University, there are many programs put in place to help with the academic success and progression of its students.
The Academic Success Program (ASP) is one of these programs, and according to the Saint Peter’s University website, “can help you sharpen skills, work through personal struggles, support you with tutoring and workshops, and even line up a job.” Through the program, students also have evening study sessions, work-study opportunities, workshops and other things.
“It really gives incoming freshman an opportunity to meet some of the faculty members and learn where everything is on campus before the semester even starts,” said Eric Kenny, a participant in ASP last summer.
However, despite it being helpful in those areas, Kenny did not find it made much sense in the academic way.
Another program is the Education Opportunity Fund (E.O.F.),a pre-college summer program that provides tutoring and peer mentoring to students from disadvantaged academic and economic backgrounds. The program has helped many people who believed that they could not afford college afford it.
Both Ana Rodriguez, Freshman & Sophomore Counselor for E.O.F., and Anne Rosario, Director of the E.O.F. program, both declined to comment on how E.O.F. supports the students under their program.
Saint Peter’s University also has the Center for the Advancement of Learning and Language (often referred to as the C.A.L.L. Center), which is a service offered to any students who need tutoring in subjects, help with doing research for papers, and getting a paper proofread by a staff of work study students.
“I think it is a great resource that many students do not take advantage of,” said Cassandra Iverson, a former work study tutor at the C.A.L.L. Center. “There are tutors there for a handful of subjects and from a variety of majors who are there to help.”
However, many students at Saint Peter’s University do not feel a sense of support in their academic endeavors.
David Carrero, currently a student at Rutgers University at New Brunswick, transferred out of Saint Peter’s University after his Freshman year.
“I felt that I was not getting the most out of what I wanted due to the lack of support for my major and in turn I felt discouraged and not excited about attending the school anymore,” said Carrero.
Rutgers at New Brunswick has a graduation rate of 52.6% (the second highest among public 4-year institutions), over 13 points higher than Saint Peter’s University. While the graduation rate was not a deciding factor in his transferring out of Saint Peter’s, the higher graduation rate has been “reassuring” in knowing that he made the right choice. He also says that Rutgers offers him a environment of “more variety and a challenging atmosphere.”
Daryl Greene, a student who has completed his four years but will be coming back to serve a fifth year to make up the lost credits, agrees with Carrero.
“Yes, I honestly wish the school did help me a lot more with finishing up at a reasonable time,” said Greene. “Students should be able to finish up in four years like at any other university but at the end of the day what can you really do?”
Jennifer Avila, a senior who graduated in the winter, comments on the lack of opportunity to make up for classes.
“There are not enough night classes offered during the evening hours for us to take,” said Avila. “Also, I find it hard to take classes that are appropriate for my major during the summer semesters. It is seems like most of them are always for the core and for Business majors.”
Financial reasons can also be a possible effect on the graduation rate at Saint Peter’s University. The tuition has consistently risen every year by about $1,000 since at least 1999 and now it has more than doubled, according to Cappex.com. Tuition is now at $30,320 according to the Saint Peter’s University website.
Despite the complaints from students, this is the highest the four-year graduation rate for Saint Peter’s University has been for over the past decade. The lowest recent grade rate was in 2003 when it dipped down to 23.7%.
When the Saint Peter’s University Office of Admissions was asked about the low graduation rate, the admissions counselor on duty was unable to offer an answer on the graduation rate of Saint Peter’s University. The call was then transferred to department of Enrollment Services where no one picked up.
As stated in the first part of the article. Saint Peter’s University is not the only Hudson County college having problems with their four-year graduation rate. New Jersey City University in Jersey City and Stevens Institute of Technology in Hoboken both have low graduation rates as well.
New Jersey City University
Arielle Reyes, a third year student at New Jersey City University, was surprised at how low the graduation rate was for her school.
“Really?” was her initial response to hearing about the 7.8% graduation rate and she thinks that most students are not aware of the published rate.
Despite this fact, however, Reyes does not think that New Jersey City University is a bad school and she says that students are offered a variety of opportunities for academic success.
“Advisers try to help as much as they can to get all of our requirements in before graduation,” said Reyes. “Also, we have a lot of job fairs that offer opportunities after graduation. NJCU tries to support their students with helping them get ready for their future.”
Reyes believes the biggest factor in New Jersey City University’s low graduation rate is the lack of motivation among students. Most students that she has encountered did not pick New Jersey City University as their first choice of school.
“It was their only option other than Hudson County Community College because of money and I think that it puts a damper on their academic achievements,” said Reyes. “Especially if they don't want to be here.”
When the Admissions department of New Jersey City University was asked about the low 7.8% graduation rate, it was hard to get a solid response. The call was bounced to a few people, before eventually they simply took down a number and promised a call back.
The tuition for New Jersey City University has more than doubled for in-state students (from $4,113 to $10,021) and nearly tripled for out-of-state students (from $6,813 to $17,893) since 1999.
The graduation rate for New Jersey City University has been pretty consistent since 2002. Within the span of time the graduation rate peaked at 9% and went as low as 6%.
Stevens Institute of Technology
When the Admissions Office at Stevens Institute of Technology was contacted, the first person to answer the phone was able to give an explanation about Stevens’ low 4-year graduation rate.
Many students at Stevens choose the option to enter a Cooperative Education that requires an extra year of education but helps students clarify career goals and work in full-time paid positions. Stevens also offers a Master’s program that could be done within 5 years, and if coupled with the Cooperative Education program, then it usually takes about 5 and a half years to graduate. This explains why even though their 4-year graduation rate is a low 33.6%, their 6-year graduation is at a high 72.4%.
Tuition for Stevens has also more than doubled since 1999; from $20,4000 to $41,782.
While there may be a reason for their low four-year graduation rate, such rates used to be higher in previous years. In fact between 2003 and 2008, it rose from 23.6% to 44.2%. In 2009, it plummeted back down to 29.9%.
While the colleges in Hudson County may not be able to boast high graduation rates, they are not the worst ones in the United States. Delaware has the highest average four year graduation rate with 70.8%. New Jersey is ranked 5th highest average in the United States, between Virginia and New Hampshire. The lowest state average in The United States is in the District of Columbia with a very low 2.4% average 4 year graduation rate.
Based on data alone, it seems the problem of students graduating in 4 years is nationwide, not just in Hudson County. Even in the best states, students only have about half a chance of graduating within the standard four-year time frame and less than a 75% chance of graduating within six years. This statistic means that around 25% entering college eventually drop out entirely. In a culture where a college education is almost necessary for success in almost any career, students should be given better opportunities to complete college in an effective time frame.