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Rick Perry, who has said he wants the 2013 Legislature to impose a four-year tuition freeze for incoming freshmen, said at a Dallas press conference that such a move would give students an economic incentive to graduate on time.
"Less than 30 percent of our students graduate in four years; only 58 percent of our students have their degrees in six years," Perry said, according to an Oct. 2, 2012, Dallas Morning News news story. "That is a system that can and must be improved."
He aired a similar claim in a CBS News interview Oct. 10, 2012, saying: "One of the problems we’ve got is that only 30 percent of our college students are graduating in a four-year period of time."
We previously explored a similar claim by state Rep. Scott Hochberg, D-Houston, who said in June 2010 that about a third of Texas high school graduates who go to college end up "getting through" college. His statement rated True; our look also quoted an official from the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board pointing out that 57 percent of Texas students were graduating within six years.
Perry spokeswoman Catherine Frazier said the Republican governor drew his figures from the board, and a board spokesman, Dominic Chavez, guided us to the agency’s 2012 "Higher Education Almanac."
A chart in the report says 29.9 percent of Texas students who initially enrolled as full-time students in the state’s four-year public colleges and universities graduated within four years. It says 58.4 percent of full-time students graduated within six years, with 65.6 percent doing so within 10 years. Fewer part-time students graduated within the time periods.
Chavez said by email that the four-year graduation rate of nearly 30 percent reflects 18,396 graduates out of 61,485 full-time students in the fiscal year running through August 2011 who had enrolled as first-time students four years earlier. Notably, he said, the state can track students who switch schools by tracking them using Social Security numbers or another identifier.
And the 30 percent rate reflects improvement from the previous decade, Chavez said. By the same measure, nearly 20 percent of fourth-year undergraduates had graduated by August 2000, a rate based on 8,352 graduates among 41,925 fourth-year students.
"Not only did rate go up," he said, "but the number of students increased as well."
As noted in our check of Hochberg’s statement, two caveats apply. First, the data don’t account for students who enrolled in a Texas institution and then transferred out of state. Second, while the enrollment data include students who attended school out of state, the data don’t track whether they graduated.
Separately, the U.S. Department of Education also gauges college graduation rates by state. In 2009, its latest figures indicate, 48.5 percent of Texas students who had enrolled six years earlier had earned bachelor’s degrees, compared with 55.5 percent nationally.
The same year, 25.4 percent of Texas students who had enrolled three years earlier seeking community college associate’s degrees had succeeded, compared with 29.2 percent nationally. Based on the raw numbers behind each rate, we reached a combined graduation rate of 38 percent.
In contrast to the Texas board’s calculation, the federal figures do not account for students who transferred from one institution to another.
We asked Patrick Kelly, who works for the agency that oversees the federal graduation figures, to appraise the Texas board’s method of calculating graduation rates. "This makes sense," he said, calling the approach a straightforward, standard way of tracking students including those who change schools.
Perry said fewer than 30 percent of Texas college students graduate in four years and only 58 percent graduate within six years. That information is drawn from the state’s higher education oversight agency. We rate the claim as True.
Dallas Morning News, news article, "Perry: Tie funding to college grad rate," Oct. 2, 2012
Telephone interview and emails, Dominic Chavez, senior director of external relations, Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board, Oct. 3 and 10, 2012
National Information Center for Higher Education Policymaking and Analysis, web posts, "Three-Year Graduation Rates for Associate Students" and "Six-Year Graduation Rates for Bachelor's Students," 2009 (accessed Oct. 19, 2012)
Telephone interview, Patrick Kelly, senior associate at the National Center for Higher Education Management Systems, Boulder, Colo., Oct. 19, 2012
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