Billboard draws attention to low graduation rates

AUSTIN (KXAN) — Your son or daughter enrolls in college. So far, so good.  But years and years later that child still hasn’t graduated. That’s a problem. But changes are now in the works that could help more students get their diplomas.

Senior pictures are one of the last things a student does before graduation. It’s four and a half years in the making for Matthew Williams. He has some friends who fell behind. “There’s definitely several of us that are graduating in December.”

Some dropped out altogether.

“Three from Texas Tech and two from Texas State,” he said.

“A lot of them ended up transferring or kind of doing their own thing,” added Todd Strayhorn Jr., who also graduates this December.

The Texas Association of Business wants our lawmakers to encourage more students to finish like Williams and Strayhorn. They paid for a billboard along Interstate 35, next to the University of Texas, that says: “Only 1 in 4 students at UT San Antonio graduate in 6 years,” and asks, “Is that ship shape?” A slight jab at future UT System Chancellor Admiral William McRaven.

“He is the chancellor of multiple universities that are under 50 percent,” said Nelson Salinas from the Texas Association of Business. Salinas will lobby this session for what’s known as outcome-based funding.

The plan would call for schools to lose 10 percent of state funding until the institution could prove it was making progress. Only then would the funding be restored.

“Just to make sure we are putting focus on completion, and not just attendance,” said Salinas.

UT System officials agrees they need to be held accountable, adding that “graduation rates are not where they should be.”

“It’s just great to finish,” Strayhorn said with a smile. “That’s the end goal at the end of the day.”

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