Graduation Rate Story Pulls Mixed Reactions From Faculty

York College Students at Graduation Ceremony (Photo from york.cuny.edu)
York College Students at Graduation Ceremony (Photo from york.cuny.edu)

A recent Pandora’s Box article about York College’s four year graduation rate caused mixed reactions from school officials. It has been a topic discussed in recent meetings and despite some criticism, officials hoped the article would have a positive effect on administrators.

The article published in the October issue of Pandora’s Box showed York’s four-year graduation rate for first-time full-time freshmen at five percent, the lowest of all CUNY senior colleges. It also included information on York’s student retention and transfer rates. Officials in York’s Office of Institutional Research and Assessment (OIRA) provided the data in the article and confirmed any additional data obtained from it’s OIRA website.

“It was a front page article that caught a lot of attention,” said Dr. Aghajan Mohammadi, Director of York’s Office of Institutional Research and Assessment.

Since its publication the article has resulted in a letter to the editor written by acting Dean of Behavioral Sciences Donna Chirico and has been mentioned in meetings with York College President Marcia Keizs, members of the Student Government Association as well as the York College Alumni Association.

Mohammadi said he anticipated the article would cause a reaction from administrators.

“Whenever you put the facts on the table it divides people, some people like it, some hate it,” said Mohammadi.

While attending a recent meeting with President Keizs, Mohammadi said she mentioned that she had read the article.

“She did not reflect good or bad, however she is aware of what is going on,” said Mohammadi.

In her letter to the editor, Chirico claimed the data presented in a related graph was inaccurate. She also criticized the article claiming it was not thoroughly researched and did not include race, age and whether a student’s parents received a degree, all factors she said are accounted for by the American Institutes of Research.

“If the article had been more thoroughly researched, one could have seen that the four-year graduation rate at York has remained steady despite a variety of interventions,” said Chirico.

Despite any criticism Mohammadi said the information in the article as well as statements made by him and members of his office were accurate.

“From our side we provided accurate information, we have no doubts about the validity and reliability of the data we provided,” said Mohammadi.

SGA President, Shaikh Amin, said he was surprised by the article, but also said “we knew this already, we knew the graduation rate was somewhere below ten.”

Amin presented the article at a Faculty Senate meeting where he said the senators had mixed reactions. “Some people were very upset, some were surprised and some had no reaction at all,” said Amin.

President of the York College Alumni Association Michelle Mack said she had a “knee jerk” reaction to the article.

“I was alarmed and members of the board were alarmed to see the number in the single digit,” said Mack, who presented the article at a recent alumni association meeting. “The board’s reaction overall, we weren’t happy looking at the ratings,” said Mack.

YC Radio’s station Manager Bryan Graves said the article made people notice the, “big elephant in the room.”

“It’s something that may be known, but no-one really pulled it out from under the rug to say what are we going to do about it?” said Graves.

In light of the recent attention from the article officials hoped it would encourage administrators talk about ways to improve York’s graduation rate.

“It’s up to the people who have the potential to make the changes, to see it for what it is and do something about it,” said Graves.

Mack said she hoped the article would cause administrators to look to other departments, start a conversation and put an action plan in place to determine what could be done to improve the graduation rate. Mack insisted that the alumni board wanted to work with administrators on efforts to improve the graduation rate.

“We’re hoping we can help assist in any form in terms of how we can turn this around,” said Mack.

“I believe the article is an eye opener for a lot of administrators and faculty to do their job even better,” said Amin.

Despite her critique of the article and related graph Chirico said, “The article raises an important issue and it is one that is constantly being addressed by faculty members and administrators.”

“In the past 10 or 11 years since I have been here, we have been talking about how to improve the graduation and retention rates,” said Mohammadi. One of the conclusions reached in all the past meetings was improved customer service.

“Customer service means we have to improve the way we advise our freshman and transfer students,” said Mohammadi.

In an effort to improve customer service for freshman and transfer students York’s administrators have decided to expand academic advisement with added advisors, according to Mohammadi.

Shorter lines at the bursar’s and registrar’s offices, increased personnel in the financial aid office, student clubs, study areas, technology, and library services. All of which are areas of the college that, according to Mohamadi, are in need of improvement and that administrators have been working on.

Students who read the article said the focus should be more toward ways of improving the graduation rates.

“York should improve its admissions standards, you have a lot of people that are in school and are not college ready,” said Biotechnology major Olayinka Ola.

Ola called the academic office at York, “crap.” He said students are often forced to take classes he considered unnecessary.

“Some of the classes you take in this school are like what you took in high school,” said Ola. “They should try and provide avenues where you can get exempted from certain courses.”

Ola also said the school should offer courses more than once a semester in an effort to help students graduate on time.“The school should realize this is not just about education, it is also about providing good service,” said Ola.

“The problem is not enough people’s jobs are on the line,” said Andre Barrella, a Pharmaceutical Science major at York. “If they knew their job security was at stake they would do something.”

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