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Amy Dalrymple, Forum News Service, Published May 10 2010

Area two-year colleges above average in on-time performance

Graduation rates for area two-year colleges outpace the national and regional averages.

At Minnesota State Community and Technical College, 36 percent of students graduated in three years, according to the most recent figures available.

Another 21 percent of students transferred to another campus without completing a degree at MSCTC.

The three-year graduation rate at the North Dakota State College of Science in Wahpeton is 41 percent.

Many community college students finish in two years, but the measurement that is tracked is the three-year rate, said Carolyn Glesne, MSCTC director of institutional research.

MSCTC students in the technical programs traditionally have higher graduation rates than those completing liberal arts degrees, Glesne said.

The technical programs are more structured and designed to be finished in two years, she said.

Graduation rates don’t take into account students’ goals, Glesne said. Many students may attend community college to freshen up their job skills and not to earn a degree, she said.

“There are people who might enter our college as a full-time student with no intention to graduate,” Glesne said.

Many community college students have full-time jobs and family responsibilities.

Michael Lagobey, who will graduate from MSCTC-Moorhead this spring with a human resources degree, attended college full time while also working at Fargo Assembly full time until he was laid off.

Lagobey, 37, and his wife, also a college student, have a 6-year-old and an 18-month-old.

“To balance those three things at the same time is tough,” said Lagobey, referring to work, family and school.

He’ll graduate in two and a half years. It took him an extra semester because the Sudan native needed to take some noncredit courses, including English language classes.

Gloria Dohman, NDSCS associate vice president for institutional effectiveness, said the primary obstacle to graduating in two years is if students need developmental classes.

NDSCS is starting a new program called College Readiness Academy to have new students take some courses in the summer and be more prepared when fall semester begins, Dohman said.

“We’ve found out that students, if they are hooked up with the right resources in the first few weeks of school, they’re more likely to succeed,” she said.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Amy Dalrymple at (701) 241-5590