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Statistics misleading about OUS

Occasional misunderstandings are part of every public servant and institution’s life. Most of the time the misunderstandings are temporary, and the damage is minimal — the less said, the better.

When an institution is misrepresented in the media, however, the potential for harm increases and a response may be needed.

Such is the case when a recent Fiscal Times article identified Ohio University Southern as sixth on a list of “The 11 Universities with the Worst Graduation Rates.”

According to the article “calculating college graduation rates isn’t an exact science — the data look at the number of incoming bachelor’s degree-seeking students who graduate within six years, and dropouts include students who transfer to other schools.”

While the acknowledgement that transferring students aren’t really dropping out is appropriate, a more significant flaw goes unmentioned, one that applies to 5 of the 11 institutions named in the article: Kent State East Liverpool, Kent State Tuscarawas, Ohio University Chillicothe, and Purdue University North Central, as well as the Southern Campus.

These regional campuses function as community colleges as well as baccalaureate institutions, so a significant number of entering students intend to seek an associate’s degree rather than a bachelor’s degree.

Many Southern Campus students enter associate degree programs such as equine studies, electronic media, human services, or nursing.

If the sole standard of academic success is achievement of a baccalaureate degree, then the graduates of the Ohio University Southern associate degree nursing program, including the 95 percent who have passed their nursing board exams over the last four years, would have to be included among the “dropouts.”

By that sole standard, Ernie Hall, the electronic media graduate who won an Emmy this year, would also be a dropout, as would equine studies graduate Charlene Halkui who was invited by the Chinese government to start a therapeutic riding program there.

Instead of the 13.7 percent six-year graduation rate the article reports for Ohio University Southern, the correct figure is 30.3 percent. If transfer students are included, the figure rises to 59.9 percent.

In the words of Ohio University’s Interim Executive Dean for Regional Campuses Jim Fonseca, “these are exceptionally strong measures of educational attainment for an open-enrollment institution that serves primarily first-generation traditional and non-traditional commuting students from the Appalachian Ohio region.

And this achievement is accomplished at an annual tuition of $4890; a top-quality four-year degree from a nationally-ranked institution for less than $20,000.”

As required by federal “Student Right-to-Know” laws, Ohio University’s complete and correct data is publicly posted at http://www.ohio.edu/instres/student/stud_right.html.

What you will find if you take a close look at Ohio University Southern is a strong community partner with academic programs that provide sound preparation for significant personal growth and professional achievement.

The faculty and staff are committed to helping students achieve their educational aims, whether that means skills development, personal enrichment, a certificate or a degree.

I’m proud of our effort and our achievement at Ohio University Southern. You should be too.


Bill Willan is dean of Ohio University Southern. He can be reached at (740) 533-4610 or willanw@ohio.edu.