ND Universities Spin Abysmal Graduation Rates By Counting Student Transfers


If there is one inconvenient fact you could point to which makes North Dakota’s university system officials foam at the mouth it’s pointing out the abysmal graduation rates for the state’s institutions of higher education.

According to the Chronicle of Higher Education the graduation rate at the state’s eight four-year institutions was just 20.9 percent after four years, and 48.1 percent after six years. Those numbers were below the national averages of 31.3 percent and 56 percent, respectively.

One of the reasons former Chancellor Hamid Shirvani created such rancor with the state’s university presidents, to the point where he was eventually pushed out, is that he insisted on talking about these graduation rates, and they hated him for it.

Anyway, the spin on those ugly numbers the university system is now touting has to do with how many of these students are actually going on to complete their degrees elsewhere. If we count those completions which happen at other schools the six-year graduation rate for North Dakota’s four-year institutions goes from 48.1 percent to 64.61 percent, according to the Associated Press.

Which is good, I guess? I mean, we can be happy that almost two thirds of students who start at North Dakota’s four-year public universities are eventually completing their degrees, but should the university system be bragging when so many of them are leaving our institutions to go elsewhere?

That doesn’t exactly seem to be an endorsement of North Dakota schools, though it’s understandable why the universities are desperate to spin these ugly numbers in light of how much money they’ve gobbled up in terms of taxpayer appropriations and tuition dollars.

Legislative appropriations to the university system have grown by 133 percent since the 2005-2007 biennium:



Meanwhile, at the state’s “research institutions” (UND and NDSU) tuition has increased more than 48 percent. Tuition has increased more than 45 percent at the state’s four-year institutions, and 30 percent at the state’s two-year institutions:


Given the skyrocketing cost of our universities both in terms of state appropriations and tuition, you’d think we wouldn’t have to resort to count transferring students to shore up ugly graduation rates.