TN public universities fight lagging graduation rates - WSMV Channel 4

TN public universities fight lagging graduation rates

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NASHVILLE, TN (WSMV) -

It's almost graduation season, but thousands of Tennessee college students might not be making the grade. Now, the state is trying new tactics to ensure more students who start school actually finish.

Fewer than half the students who enroll on public Tennessee campuses have a degree six years later.

Not only are many students who start college after high school eventually failing out, but they also leave with debt.

At the University of Tennessee-Knoxville, 76 percent of students graduate within six years of their first step on campus. At Tennessee Tech, it's 60 percent. At Tennessee State, the number is just 39 percent.

Across the state, the combined average is 47 percent of college students graduating within six years.

"It could be that the major isn't a good fit, they just stop going to class and aren't communicating that with someone. We don't want students to fall off the grid and stop going to class. That affects their financial aid. It affects their ability to be academically successful," Melissa Irvin, a retention specialist at Tennessee Tech.

Irvin, a Nashville native and Duke University graduate is tasked with the job of helping students graduate. That comes in the form of programs like free daily tutoring, mentors and, most personal of all, student room visits performed by residence hall advisors.

If you've missed a couple of classes, you get a welfare check from a peer.

"You really have to want it, because there's a lot more work and it's harder. And if you don't want to do it, you're not going to do well," said Tennessee Tech student Allison Geer. "No one is telling you to do it. You have to do it yourself."

Retaining students through graduation is a big push at all schools, and everybody has a program.

Middle Tennessee State has town hall meetings and TSU has academic boot camp plus an all-in-one success center.

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