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At Ohio Wesleyan University, the six-year graduation rate is 61 percent, staggeringly low compared to the national graduation rate of 64 percent.
OWU’s graduation rate is behind almost all small liberal arts schools in Ohio, with the average for private universities floating at 70 percent or higher. Denison University, a member of the Ohio Five and rival of OWU, weighs its graduation rate at 81 percent
“When I first got here, I was told within the first week of classes to get ready to see a lot of my friends leave,” said junior Stephen Telepak. “I’ve known at least one friend personally who has failed out every semester since then.”
The cause of the lower then average graduation rates could also be attributed to tuition costs, according to senior Matthew Wasserman.
“Most of the students you ask will say they came to OWU for the scholarship, but tuition rates keep going up and the amount of scholarship you get typically does not.” Wasserman said. “Either you get a job on campus to offset your post grad debt, or you find somewhere that can make you a better offer.”
Despite the financial burden of college life, the university has made strides to help students graduate on time and improve graduation rates. According to Dr. Dale Swartzentruber, the associate provost for institutional research, the four-year graduation rate for students who arrived in the fall of 2009 and graduated in 2013 was 64.3 percent. This increase shows tangible results of improvement over the recent years.
“I think that since president Rock Jones got here, he has done a good job giving more attention and allocating resources to help students graduate, and that is a good sign that we are headed in the right direction,” said assistant director of admissions Steven Johanson.
“Personally when I am recruiting new students, I show them all the great opportunities OWU has to offer and we hope that students take full advantage.”
Johanson pointed out that many OWU students are very active in clubs outside of classes, and that admissions have emphasized looking for potential students that have already shown the ability to balance academics and extracurricular activities.
“Our goal is to have every student who enrolls graduate in four years, and while meeting that 100 percent isn’t realistic, I think our efforts to bridge that gap will continue to show positive results,” Johanson said.
Because OWU’s graduation rates are staggering compared to those of other Ohio five schools, Telepak said he thinks students should take even greater pride in their accomplishments during college and their abilities to graduate despite academic, financial and personal obstacles.
“When I get my degree I’ll feel an extra sense of pride, not just because of the piece of paper, but how hard it was to get it,” Telepak said.
“After seeing so many fall, I appreciate even more the work I put in over these four years.”