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This item originally appeared in the September 23, 2004 issue of The Tech Talk.

By ELLIOTT DONNER

Staff Writer

In the past five years Louisiana Tech has leaped from a 35 percent graduation rate to a whopping 55 percent rate, and Tech President Dan Reneau has set a goal to raise it another 20 points in the next five years.

Tech has been recognized by The Education Trust, a Washington, D.C.-based advocacy group, which pointed Tech out as a leader in graduation rates. In fact, Tech was singled out as one of three universities in the nation cited for significantly improving graduation rates.

"This increase has had a big effect on the environment of the school. Tech is a successful school," Reneau said.

Tech implemented selective admissions in 1992. Reneau said the move was the key to the university's success in retaining students.

Pamela Ford, dean of enrollment management, attributes higher ACT scores in admission for the rise in graduation rates. Ford said students with higher scores on this test are more committed and therefore finish school.

Other than higher admission requirements, Tech has implemented other programs that have statistically shown to improve graduation rates, and make the whole college experience more enjoyable.

University Seminar is a mandatory freshman class established in 1992 when admission requirements were going up. The course started with an assortment of speakers, not including professors.

When Ford was hired in 1995, the seminar class was in place and running, but the administration gave it the fine tuning it needed. In Ford's incoming fall quarter, a book was added to the class, which gave it a backbone for success.

Next, Ford added faculty instructors to further information freshmen learned about the university their first quarter here.

"In my seminar class I learned lots about school, but I met the people who I am still friends with today," Nathan Franklin, a junior finance major, said.

Another tool the instructors use for the seminar class is a survey called the College Student Inventory. This survey lets instructors know any areas of concern for the students.

"Taking surveys usually turns into filling in ACDC the whole way down the scantron, but I'm sure if it would have been there when I went through the class it would have helped me," Franklin said.

Ford says that the University Seminar course not only gives students information they need to succeed, it also gives the university valuable feedback from students.

The University of Louisiana System presidents recently launched a graduation initiative focusing on important aspects for incoming freshmen.

The UL System has found the nucleus of all delayed graduation or not graduating to be problems in the freshmen year. The freshmen feel no structure and need more organization.

The system finds that about 20 percent of students drop out between their first and second years of college. They will now focus on improving advising and lending any additional assistance to freshmen during their first year of college.

Other focused areas the UL System presidents plan to implement include service learning, on-line courses, opportunities for internships and more flexible class schedules, including weekend and evening classes.

The UL System report ranks Tech's graduation rates, which are increasing and have been for several years. As the standards are raised for admissions among ULS universities, the rates keep getting higher, and with added assistance to freshmen it will keep on rising, system officials said.


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