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Saturday, April 19, 2014

No one completes 4-yr degree at NMC on time
Only 8 percent finish associate degree within 2 years

Officials of the Northern Marianas College disclosed Friday that too few of its students graduate on time. Only 8 percent of students taking up an associate degree finish within two years while none of its students complete the four-year degree on time.

This was based on the latest data presented to the board Friday.

NMC has only one four-year degree program, the School of Education. Most of its courses are for associate degree, or two-year programs.

At the national level, 12 percent of students pursuing two-year degrees graduate on time; 22 percent complete the two-year degree in three years; while 28 percent complete the degree in four years.

According to Barbara Merfalen, NMC dean of Academic Programs and Services, only 8 percent of students under two-year degree programs complete the course within two years; 18 percent of students graduate in three years; 21 percent complete the degree in four years; 22 percent graduate in five years; and 23 percent graduate after six years.

For NMC’s only four-year degree program, no student has completed the degree within four years. At the national level, 31 percent of students finish their four-year degrees within four years; 56 percent complete the degree in six years; and 59 percent after eight years.

Merfalen, along with her team, reported Friday that 20 percent of NMC students taking a four-year degree graduate after six years, and 24 percent complete it in eight years.

Merfalen said that NMC is actually in the “neighborhood” compared with the national data on the two-year degree record. But she described the four-year degree numbers as “a glaring concern” that must be addressed if NMC wants to continue to receive federal financial assistance for its students.

According to NMC president Dr. Sharon Y. Hart, the college must improve its “completion and retention” rates because that data would be used for how federal dollars will be allocated for individual institutions.

“What we see down the road is that the college would ultimately be ranked and depending on the institution’s data on these areas (completion and retention), they will decide the federal funding allocation. Once that happen, we want to make sure that CNMI students are able to receive the increase in those federal aids,” Hart said Friday.

Merfalen admitted that NMC’s completion rates are dismal at this time but the record would be an important baseline for the college to plan initiatives and programs that would boost completion data.

“I am excited about this, I am for it. Our number may be dismal now, but this could be a baseline for us … and we will move from there,” said Merfalen.

Clear factors

According to NMC officials, several factors affect course and college completion rates. One is placement at the remedial level. It was disclosed that 90 percent of incoming students place in the remedial level in Math and English courses.

Other factors are the lack of regular class attendance, work and personal related absences, challenging program requirements, limited and inconsistent academic advising, poor financial planning, the transition from high school to college, and the social and cultural realities of life in the community.

Merfalen said they will have a series of meetings to discuss the data and institutional actions that may be initiated.

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