Southern Association of Colleges and Schools

July 13, 2010. The Seminole State "Facilities department has arranged for an outside company to physically change out all framed {mission} statements in conference rooms on every Campus, and other prominent locations such as the Board Room." These measures are being taken to prepare for "the July 13-15 visit by the SACS {(Southern Association of Colleges and Schools)} Team for affirmation of our Level II Status to offer baccalaureate degrees." As of July 12, the new statements have been placed within the second floor Sanford/Lake Mary campus' (SL/M) Library. {1}

Last week's urgent bulletin concerning the SACS visit today (July 13) reiterates just how important these mission statements are: "Please make sure that our Seminole State Mission/Vision/Collegewide Goals statements have been updated in each location that they are posted throughout our College. If you observe any statements that have not yet been updated, please contact Charity Lo Giudice as soon as possible at ext. 2440." And still the Student Center microwave ovens don't work. Pity the statements aren't edible. Fortunately, distinguished college leadership and honored SACS guests will probably benefit from catering from Nature's Table.

Vision Statement

A portion of the vision statement reads,"We are student-centered {but we can't afford microwave ovens}, as evidenced by our investment in high-quality, committed faculty and staff; distinctive and diverse programs; and the wide range of innovative services we offer." Puzzlingly, however, another portion says, "Achieving this vision positions Seminole State College as a source of pride and an exemplary model for the community college of the future." Importantly, SSC is no longer a community college in the strict sense of that phrase, since it is now registering students for baccalaureate degrees. In fact, the whole purpose behind revised vision statements was to reflect the rebranding of Seminole Community College to Seminole State College of Florida: it now awards four-year degrees instead of only two-year ones.

Seminole Community College Foundation

For the first time since 2005, net revenue for the foundation dropped markedly, from a peak of over $4 million in 2006 to less than $2 million in 2009, below the previous low of approximately $3 million in 2005.

Program Completion Rates

"The overall graduation rate is also known as the 'Student Right to Know' or IPEDS graduation rate. It tracks the progress of students who began their studies as full-time, first-time degree- or certificate-seeking students to see if they complete a degree or other award such as a certificate within 150% of 'normal time' for completing the program in which they are enrolled." {2}

"Overall Graduation Rates for Students Who Began in Fall 2005"

Overall graduation rate = 31%. Students classified as White graduated at a rate of 36%. For those listed in government categories as Hispanic/Latino and Black or African American, the rates were 27% and 13%, respectively. "Graduation rates can be measured over different lengths of time. 'Normal time' is the typical amount of time it takes full-time students to complete their program. For example, the 'normal' amount of time for many associate's degree programs is 2 years. Not all students complete within the normal time, so graduation rates are measured by other lengths of time as well, including '150% of normal time'. . . ." {2}

"Graduation Rates for Students Who Began in Fall 2004"

12% and 30% of students, respectively, completed in normal time or within 150% of normal time. All data in this section from IPEDS is the most current available from this source, part of the National Center for Education Statistics. {2}

Costs of Attending

Books

Bookstore services on the SL/M campus are provided by Follett Higher Education Group. Self-paying students have the option of purchasing materials from wherever they like, in new or used condition, so long as they furnish their own funds. Financial aid students may buy required texts on account before the start of the semester (they need not necessarily pay out of pocket); however, this option is available only from Follett. As may be expected, in cases where a single for profit vendor provides this type of service, purchasing from the monopoly vendor is not the lowest cost option.

As an illustrative example, the freshman English required text, The Prentice Hall Guide for College Writers, Brief, ISBN:9780136017141, sells used from Follett for $68.75. Barnes and Noble.com, in contrast, sells the same ISBN for $49.75 new. For students taking ten courses per academic year, a fairly typical load for college students in America, this represents an estimated $200 per year of added costs for textbooks.

Ironically, financial aid awards are often, though not exclusively, need-based. The less able the student is to afford materials and tuition on a self-pay basis, the more likely he or she is to receive aid. As the above example illustrates, the aid recipient will typically pay more than the student paying from personal funds, even though the aid recipient is likely to be the least able to bear the added cost. This additional revenue, some taxpayer provided, accrues to the bookstore vendor. Additionally, it should be noted that this type of textbook purchase, regardless of the form of payment, is subject to government retail sales tax.

In the case of the ISBN noted above, should it happen that the book is bought new at the start of the semester and weeks later a decision is made to substitute a new or different text for the forthcoming semester, the just purchased book is unlikely to have any re-sale value. Although perhaps a shocking reality for students and parents alike, a new textbook can depreciate 100% in value in less than six months, with essentially no residual salvage value whatsoever. This only serves to underscore the value of obtaining books from the lowest cost provider.

UCF

Perhaps the single most frequently emphasized marketing point for Seminole State (and for other regional state colleges--formerly known as community colleges) is that of the economical path toward the bachelor's degree. However, what is cheap is not necessarily a bargain. Again, data is derived from IPEDS, and the most current available is from 2002. Statistics measure the number of full-time students who seek a first bachelor's degree in 2002 and complete the degree at UCF within six years, or 150% of the normal time required to earn the degree. 63% of students entering in 2002 completed their degree within six years at UCF. In contrast only 30% of students entering Seminole State in 2004 finished an associate's degree or certificate within 150% of the normal time required to complete the program of study. For African American students, the contrasts are more stark. The majority of African American students completed their UCF degree within six years, whereas only 13% completed an associate's (AA) or certificate at Seminole State within the normal completion time. Even though data for completers within 150% of the normal time (more than two years but less than four to earn an AA) were lacking for African Americans at Seminole, some compelling and basic conclusions are possible.

Conclusions

While raw data supports the argument that undergraduate tuition at Seminole State is a fraction of that paid by freshmen and sophomores at UCF, completion rates suggest that those seeking a bachelor's or higher degree are more likely to achieve their goals by entering the university rather than by transferring to the university as a junior. 50% fewer freshmen entering Seminole State for a certificate or degree will become UCF juniors compared to those who began their first year of study at UCF itself. These trends cut across racial and gender lines. Surprisingly, however, more than two-thirds of women completed their bachelor's at UCF within six years. This data is not intended to be a blanket rejection of Seminole's benefits; however, the term "bargain" is not necessarily applicable.

References

{1} Personal observation of writeup author, July 13, 2010.

{2} http://nces.ed.gov/collegenavigator/?id=137209.

Copyright 2010 Mark Murphy.

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