SUNY Cortland has emerged as a leader among its sister institutions for the rate by which its incoming freshmen earn a bachelor’s degree.
Nearly seventy-seven percent of the students who entered in 2003 as freshmen earned their degree by Fall 2009. The 76.6 completion percentage ranks SUNY Cortland third among all SUNY campuses, trailing only SUNY Geneseo and Binghamton University, according to a Nov. 19 report shared recently by SUNY’s Office of Institutional Research and Analysis.
“This important educational outcome reinforces that SUNY Cortland is on the right track,” said Gradin Avery, the College’s associate provost for enrollment management and marketing. “We realize that the percentage of students getting their degree and the success of students graduating are critical components of our mission.”
Each campus’ chief academic officer was presented with the findings in a report titled “Successful Educational Outcomes of First-time, Full-time Students.” The report identifies the number of students who entered as first-time, full-time freshmen and remained enrolled until their degree was earned.
“Beyond the actual attainment of the degree, SUNY measured a variety of other factors,” Avery said. “There are students from the 2003 entering class who remain enrolled at Cortland because they changed their status from fulltime to part-time or had to leave their studies for a period of time. SUNY refers to these students as persisters. Others have transferred to another SUNY or non-SUNY college to obtain their degree. SUNY refers to this overall continuation of the degree as the success rate.”
The success rate of the students who entered SUNY Cortland as full-time students in Fall 2003 is 94.7 percent.
“In this category, no one in SUNY ranks higher than SUNY Cortland,” Avery asserted. “These students either are working to obtain their degree elsewhere or are still working on their degree at SUNY Cortland.”
Avery gives students credit for much of their own success rate.
“We’re fortunate to be a very popular college,” he said. “We attract successful students, which contributes to our high retention and completion rates, which then attracts more outstanding students. It’s a wonderful cycle.”
The College stabilized its enrollment in recent years, accepting 4,674 first-year students in 2005 and only slightly more, 5,151, in 2010. During the same timeframe, applications from prospective freshmen increased 25 percent, from 9,784 to 12,309.
The College’s approach to improving graduation outcomes has included the following:
• Tracking and improving the availability of key courses necessary to complete graduation.
• Ensuring that financial resources are in place to keep students in college long enough to graduate, whether through private dollars for scholarships or financial aid planning.
• Planning for an adequate number of faculty members to teach the courses students will need to graduate.
• Scheduling the sequence of major course work so that enrolled students can remain on track.
• Coordinating with local and statewide school districts for students in the College’s large teacher education population to have sufficient classroom experience in order to complete their teacher certification process.