Audit prompts look at low graduation rate

By Joseph Barrios

Arizona Daily Wildcat

Half of all students who enroll in the Arizona university system will not graduate, according to a study released Friday.

The auditor general handed down a series of recommendations on what the three state universities need to do to improve graduation rates. It focused on the quality of undergraduate education for students attending the three universities.

The Office of the Auditor General conducted the performance audit with data collected over three years, from fall 1991 to 1994. It studied graduation rates and gave suggestions on how Arizona universities could improve those figures.

Other study conclusions include:

Most students take more than four years to complete their studies at Arizona's universities.

Undergraduate students are delayed in graduating because they cannot gain admission to required courses.

Arizona universities need more support services such as academic advising and orientation.

Recommendations include:

The three state universities should report to the Arizona Board of Regents and the Arizona Legislature within two years why students leave before graduation.

Universities should review curriculum requirements in light of their impact on length of time and number of hours to graduation.

All three university presidents agreed the report does not address the concept that all three universities have separate goals and serve distinctly different communities. University of Arizona President Manuel Pacheco argued that giving blanket recommendations is impossible.

"It doesn't adequately recognize the three different missions of our institutions," Pacheco said.

"The report was written almost in a vacuum," said Clara Lovett, Northern Arizona University president.

The regents said the report also fails to recognize that some of the changes the audit would like to see are already underway.

"It (the audit) highlights several goals the (Arizona) Board of Regents has been working on for several years, but have not yet solved," said Art Chapa, president of the board.

Chapa said all three universities are already making some kind of effort to improve the quality of undergraduate education. He said change in any institution is not immediate because a large amount of information must be collected and analyzed first.

The report recommends increased interaction between faculty and students and for universities to eliminate classes with an inadequate number of students attending. The UA already has a policy of cancelling classes when there are not enough students enrolled.

Lovett said that students are taking longer to graduate because of outside factors, such as families or jobs, in addition to their studies.

"We have a commitment to allow the students to carry on other responsibilities," Lovett said.

Class status reports for fall 1993 were used to determine how quickly classes were filled, and the auditor general's office interviewed parents and student leaders for input. The results were presented at an interactive press conference Friday, using monitors to let university figures and the press interact.

Chapa coordinated the event on the UA campus while Pacheco was at Arizona State University with ASU President Lattie Coor.

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