Wednesday, November 24, 1999

Taft proposes report card for state's colleges




BY SPENCER HUNT
Enquirer Columbus Bureau

        COLUMBUS — Gov. Bob Taft wants Ohio's public colleges and universities to grade themselves on teaching and graduating students.

        Mr. Taft asked the Ohio Board of Regents, the panel that oversees the state's 38 colleges and universities, to come up with an annual report card that students and parents could use to shop for the best school.

        The report card would list graduation, transfer and retention rates and include students' average time spent and credits earned to get their diplomas.

        The governor outlined his request in a letter to Board Chancellor Roderick Chu, and discussed it at a luncheon meeting with reporters Tuesday.

        He said he was concerned about a recent report by the National Collegiate Athletic Association that revealed that student-athletes at Ohio State University had the lowest graduation rate among the Big Ten schools.

        “We're interested not just in student-athletes, but in all students,” Mr. Taft said. “I think this would be a very useful report for all of us.”

        While Mr. Chu and officials at Cincinnati-area universities signaled support for the idea, they also said an accurate report card may be hard to produce. Different universities, they say, have different strengths and weaknesses that a simple column of numbers might not reveal.

        Nearly 80 percent of the students who attend Miami University graduate in six years or fewer, Holly Wissing, a university spokeswoman, said her school would have no problem sharing that statistic with the rest of the world.

        “We have the highest graduation rate of Ohio's public universities,” Ms. Wissing said. “We think that (report card) would be great.”

        But the University of Cincinnati's 45 percent graduation rate would mar the school's good reputation if there were no explanation, said spokesman Greg Hand.

        “We have a lot of people come in, take one or two accounting classes, get a promotion at work, and they're done,” Mr. Hand said. “They didn't graduate, but they got what they came for.”

        A high graduation rate, said Mr. Hand, could mean a school does a great job of educating and keeping its students. It could also mean that a school simply refuses to fail students.

        “The numbers, by itself, with no explanation, could relate to both situations,” he said.

        Despite those concerns, Mr. Chu said he thought the Board of Regents could produce a report card containing much of what the governor was looking for, and do so within a year.

       



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