Fewer Than 20 % of College’s Students Graduate

GraduationBy Anthony Buonasera

According to statistics provided by a government database, the College has a graduation rate of 19.4 percent, which is less than the national average.

“I graduated in January 2012,” said Sean Spurlock, a former student, who said he took two-and-a-half years to graduate from the College. “I was afraid I’d have to do a full three years, but I was able to cram in all my classes in one last semester. It was pretty tough,” he added. “A lot tougher than I thought it’d be. There was a time when I thought I’d never finish.”

Spurlock is not alone in that regard. The College Scorecard database states that graduation from the school is usually done within 150 percent of the expected time for completion, or two-and-a-half years. Only 7.7 percent of students transfer to another school.

College Scorecard is a database housed on the White House website, whitehouse.gov. It provides average annual attendance costs, graduation rates, loan default rates, and median monthly borrowing rates for nearly every college and university in the United States.

According to the most recent available data, the national average graduation rate for 2-year schools in the US was 20.4 percent in 2007, as stated by the US Department of Education. That amount rises to 20.8 percent for women and drops to 19.9 percent for men. The lowest graduation rate for an ethnicity was just under 12 percent, which belonged to people classified as Black. The ethnicity with the highest graduation rate was Asian and Pacific Islander, which had a rate of 25.6 percent.

One option to help students’ graduate is to take college credit courses in high school. Elizabeth Peters, a graduate of Sachem East High School and Suffolk Community College, did just that.

“It took me two years [to graduate from Suffolk], but I had taken three classes in high school that gave me college credit, so I went in with like 9 credits. Having some credits to start off with helped me graduate on time. If I didn’t take those classes in high school I probably wouldn’t have been as prepared for the workload either.” She continued on to say “Without those credits from high school, I probably would have been in Suffolk for three years,” Peters said.

Another issue pressing students is their loans. College Scoreboard indicates that 16.4 percent of the College’s borrowers default on their student loans within three years of repayment, which is above the national average of 13.4 percent.

“I didn’t really get too much help paying for school. I did it all myself, which was really hard. I had to work a lot of extra shifts for a long time to pay off that money,” Spurlock said.

Peters encountered similar difficulty.

“I had some help from family in the beginning. Of course, I got a part-time job to help pay for it, but even that little amount was hard. It’s costs a lot to live on Long Island,” she said.

The job market for students with an associate’s degree is fair, according to the US Department of Commerce. About 65 percent of graduates with an associate’s degree were employed full time in 2010, and 13.5 percent of graduates were employed part time in 2010, also according to the US Department of Commerce. Thirty-five hours or more of work a week is classified as full time in the statistics provided. No specific employment statistics for Suffolk are available on College Scorecard.

The faculty at the College offer another perspective. Scott Mandia is a professor of meteorology and climate science and the school, and was contacted via the school e-mail to answer some questions. When asked if the graduation rate at the school surprised him, Mandia replied “No. Many of our students come here for courses looking to transfer. If they do so before getting a degree it will lower the graduation rate but that [does not] mean they failed in the least. Others come here thinking it is 13th grade and are not ready to take college-level courses. Often these students choose to [quit] rather than to meet these higher standards. It is in everybody’s best interest to try to get these students to stay here and step it up academically.”

“It is very expensive to live here and many of our students choose to live outside the home and drive cars beyond their “pay grade”. In doing so, their monthly payments force them to work too many hours which then sinks their GPA. We also have many single parents who go to school and have to work to pay for child care. These costs add up quickly and again, academics takes a hit when students do not have enough time nor energy to study,” Mandia said of the loan default rate.

“We should stop allowing first year students to choose their classes without meeting an adviser. The more we have face to face with our students the more we will come to know and respect each other,” He suggested as a new way for the College to help students graduate on time. “Faculty and counselors also have much wisdom they can impart on their students but only if they can get to them early to help guide their educational path. I have seen some crazy schedules that students design to come to school two days per week. This is academic suicide. the College is working on various ways to improve the advising here,” he said.

Mandia also provided advice to students to help graduate on time. “Take no more than 15 credits per semester and then choose one or two summer courses. Spread your school work over 12 months instead of 10 months. ALWAYS try to work with a group of students in your classes. College is difficult to do successfully alone. I always studied with others for my exams. When you have free time during the day get your school work done. Yes, have some fun, but if you wait to do your work at the last minute or late at night when you are nearly sleeping, you will be less successful.”

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