Roughly, only about 14 percent of Northern Marianas College students graduate, which is low but reflects the national trend, according to NMC associate professor Dr. Dean Papadopoulos.
Speaking yesterday at the Rotary Club of Saipan meeting at the Hyatt Regency Saipan, Papadopoulos said that NMC’s graduation percentage is consistent when compared to his former university, which he did not name.
This leads him to believe that the low graduation rate is a “national trend.”
“Where I went to college, at a state teachers university, 14.5 percent was the graduation rate. At [NMC], it is very similar. When I ran the stats 15 years ago, the number didn’t really change,” he said. “Many students begin college and very few finish college.”
Papadopoulos said it is essential that instructors “understand the context in which a student comes into our classroom—the more committed we could be to help them graduate.”
According to Papadopoulos, “the reality is there are many reasons why students don’t finish college, including not having the academic skills; including family responsibilities, a necessity to enter the economy probably before they would like to, including raising their brothers and sisters, and taking care of their elder relatives in the house.”
“Nobody leaves college willingly; people leave because there is a necessity to leave,” he added.
Papadopoulos mentioned that when any student graduates, “we know it is a miracle.”
He said the most satisfying part of his job as an educator is the ability to impact an individual’s life.
“The pleasure of teaching and being in the school system for 25 years, as I have been, is we get to be part of people’s lives and helping them improve their quality of life,” he said.
It could get frustrating, though, on the employer’s side.
D&Q resident manager Max Kretzer said the company needs to fill certain positions that require a bachelor’s degree.
According to Kretzer, the statistics of college graduation rate was interesting to him because as job applications are reviewed, majority of the applicants only had a portion of a college education as opposed to degrees.
“A lot of kids put down that they have been to college but very few put down that they have a degree. I was surprised with the statistics, but it matched what I was seeing,” said Kretzer.
At one point, D&Q was in need of accounting people and, needless to say, required a degree as a minimum requirement, Kretzer said.
“We need some qualified people. There are not many qualified people on Saipan. It is probably improving, but it is a competitive market for those people,” he said. “I’d like to see more kids getting into college and completing college. We need to keep the workers here in the CNMI.”
Papadopoulos said that NMC intentionally tries to fit the many schedules of its students to its course offerings.
“We offer classes in the morning, afternoon, and in the evening. There are also several classes on Saturday,” he said. “We have the traditional students who have time between 9am and 5pm to come to our classes. We have workings students that could only attend classes after their working days; we are doing the best we can.”
Although there is no straightforward solution the college could provide, Papadopoulos said that all they could do is “be aware of [the graduation trend] and continue to welcome and to teach the students that are before us.”