Affordability, Business Needs Drive Pulaski Tech Growth

by Robert Bell  on Monday, Jun. 21, 2010 12:00 am  

"College algebra is there, and it's a hurdle," Jones said.

The average age of a Pulaski Tech student is 29, and two-thirds of the students are women. Most students have part- or full-time jobs off campus, and many are single parents, he said.

Jones mentioned one former student who was a mother of six and was in an abusive marriage. She got a divorce but had never worked outside the home and found that she would need other resources to support her children. At the suggestion of a friend, she enrolled at Pulaski Tech and proceeded to become immersed in campus life, availing herself of many of the school's services. She graduated recently with a 4.0 average, Jones said.

"These are highly motivated people who want a better life for their family," he said.


Retaining Students

Despite the motivation, relatively few of Pulaski Tech's students will actually complete an associate's degree, Jones acknowledged.

According to the U.S. Department of Education's Federal Student Aid website, the school's most recent graduation rate was 13 percent. That figure refers to students who enroll and complete their program within 150 percent of the advertised time, for example completing a two-year program within three years.

The retention rate - the percentage of first-time, first-year undergraduate students who reenroll for a second year - is 54 percent, while the transfer rate is 19 percent, according to the site.

"The things that we have identified as the areas where we have the greatest challenges and need to improve the most are in graduation and retention," Jones said. "The people that enter our developmental courses are at a disadvantage inasmuch as they have to take noncredit courses. Sometimes they may have to take two or three before they can get into college algebra."

Students don't always anticipate how challenging college will be.

"Once they're here, life happens. When you deal with large numbers of people that are first-generation college students who are coming from further down the rung socio-economically, there is a real problem with anybody that's coming from a situation of poverty or near poverty, and getting very basic kinds of things that middle-class people take for granted: a car that works, not moving every two or three months, not living with their extended family members, that kind of thing," he said.



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