RAPID CITY, S.D. (Oct. 2, 2012) – The South Dakota School of Mines and Technology joined nearly 490 public colleges and universities nationwide on Tuesday in pledging to boost degree completion rates by the year 2025.
Through “Project Degree Completion: A Public University Initiative,” the institutions will increase the number of college degrees they award from an estimated 14.6 million to 18.4 million over the next 14 years. The 3.8 million increase will help the nation reach the goal of 60 percent of adults possessing a college degree.
Collectively, public colleges and universities currently award just over 1 million degrees annually. The South Dakota School of Mines and Technology and other participating institutions are members of the American Association of State Colleges and Universities (AASCU) and the Association of Public and Land-Grant Universities (APLU). Nearly all four year public colleges and universities in the country are members of the organizations.
School of Mines Acting President Duane Hrncir, Ph.D., said the university is on the path toward helping achieve the national goal, as it focuses on "Mines 2020: A Strategic Vision and Plan."
"This is a top priority for the School of Mines. As we recruit more students and boost our retention rates, an increase in the number of graduates will naturally follow," Hrncir said.
The School of Mines’ strategic priorities call for increasing enrollment to 4,000 by 2020. Enrollment this fall is 2,424, a nearly 5 percent spike compared to the same period a year ago.
In Fiscal Year 2012, 356 students earned degrees from the South Dakota School of Mines, an 11 percent increase over 2011, when 320 students graduated.
The "Project Degree Completion" pledge is broadly consistent with the efforts of the Obama administration, the Lumina Foundation, the College Board and other prominent educational foundations and postsecondary groups to enhance the nation"s global competitiveness by ensuring 60 percent of U.S. adults (aged 25 to 64) earn a postsecondary credential. Formerly first in the developed world in the proportion of the population with a college education, today the United States stands 14th in the world, according to the APLU and AASCU.
Part of the institutions" strategy for achieving the growth in degrees is to make a concerted effort to reach out to former students who have not earned a baccalaureate degree from any institution.
Colleges and universities also pledge support for student access and diversity; efforts to reduce the average "time to degree" for students; and closer partnerships with elementary and secondary schools and community colleges to prepare students to earn four-year degrees, particularly in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.
The institutions signing the commitment also pledge to continue to "constrain per-student educational expenditures while pursuing enhanced educational quality." The institutions note that public colleges and universities have limited increases in these expenditures to about the rate of inflation for the past 20 years, even though there has been a significant decline in state appropriations for public education in many states during that period. This is what has "forced public institutions to raise tuition to compensate for the significant loss of state dollars,” the signers say, even though they have kept per-student education expenditures essentially flat.
The commitment asserts that "states must provide sufficient appropriations to support students and the discovery of new knowledge," while the federal government must maintain its "commitment to student financial aid; support for research and innovation; and encouragement of states to continue their support for public colleges and universities." The commitment also stresses that public colleges and universities must be "more innovative in the performance of their essential roles."