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Keeping Them in College
"East Carolina University's efforts to improve retention and graduation rates

  In This Issue

(Photo by Jana Birchum, Black Star, for CrossTalk)

Lindsay Greer, a University of Texas at Austin freshman who benefited from the state's policy of admitting all applicants ranking in the academic top ten percent at any state high school, thinks the policy is unfair to many students.
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Keeping Them in College
East Carolina University's efforts to improve retention and graduation rates

The "Seamless System"
Florida's flurry of dramatic changes in the governance of public education

The Ten-Percent Solution
Texas' enrollment strategy remains contentious, as the state becomes increasingly multi-cultural

Devastation Brings Sweeping Changes
Opportunity, and opportunism, in the wake of Hurricane Katrina

News From The Center
  –New Center Associates

Our National Underperformance
Is American higher education still the best in the world?

Washington, D.C. symposium marks the release of Measuring Up 2006

Reactions to the Spellings Commission Report

By Don Campbell
Greenville, North Carolina

Nearly a thousand incoming freshmen and anxious parents are crammed into East Carolina University's Wright Auditorium on a steamy hot morning in late June.

Don Joyner, ECU's associate vice chancellor for admissions and advising, is pacing from one end of the stage to the other, microphone in hand, doing a dead-on imitation of a fire-and-brimstone television minister exhorting the faithful in a high-pitched twang.

He's deep into a well-practiced recitation of what it takes to succeed in college—get involved in campus activities, use the library, learn some basic study skills, have realistic expectations—beginning with commandment number one: "Go to class."

East Carolina University tries to involve new students like track and field athlete Valeria Moore in as many non-classroom activities as possible in their first few weeks on campus.
(Photo by Tom Cogill for CrossTalk)

"Let me tell you what's going to happen to some of you," Joyner shouts. "You're going to break up with your boyfriend or your girlfriend, and all of a sudden, you think your life is over! Well let me tell you something else: You've got to get over your depression! You can't use that as an excuse... because this place can be unforgiving!"

Wide-eyed parents and students are cackling one moment and nodding their heads solemnly the next, mesmerized by a popular and locally famous ritual that Joyner performs in orientation sessions seven times each summer. His tough-love message for new students is just one weapon in an innovative arsenal that East Carolina uses to keep them in college and get them through graduation.

Retention and graduation are two of the hottest topics in higher education these days, as governing boards, accrediting agencies, and state and federal lawmakers demand more accountability and bang for the buck from college administrators. College dropout rates are not declining noticeably—and are rising in some cases—despite a wide array of programs aimed at keeping students enrolled. (continue)


The "Seamless System"
Florida's flurry of dramatic changes in the governance of public education

By Jon Marcus

Beyond the freshly planted, carefully manicured landscaping fringing the new roads, there's not much to betray what is planned for the area of Central Florida called Lake Nona. Only a few bored-looking cattle graze past the lonely new strip malls that are the unmistakable early warning signs of looming development in this state.

What is about to happen here is symbolic both of the remarkable growth of higher education in Florida and the dramatic way the public universities are governed after two revolutionary changes in just five years. Those changes served to decentralize a system that was once tightly centrally controlled (just as has been happening in other states), and then to rein it in again. Through it all, politics in this politically obsessed state became even more of a factor in what happens at each campus.

John Hitt presides over 45,000-student Central Florida University, one of the nation's largest.
(Photo by Todd Anderson, Black Star, for CrossTalk)

In January, VIPs will come from all over Florida to Lake Nona to mark the groundbreaking for a biosciences building that will be the first component of a new medical school and the 13th satellite campus for the University of Central Florida, a school that did not exist until 1968 and is now (along with two other Florida universities) one of the ten largest in the United States, with more than 45,000 students. "The biggest university you never heard of," people in Orlando like to joke. Students call it "UCF—Under Construction Forever." (continue)


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