Temple University is one of the more popular universities with New Jersey’s college-bound students who wish to leave the Garden State, ranking as high as sixth behind the University of Delaware, Penn State-University Park, Drexel, NYU and Villanova. I have profiled Temple before, but the most significant update that I can make focuses around an ambitious program called ‘Fly in Four’.
Four years ago, the university launched ‘Fly in Four’ to combine scholarships, academic advising and improved access to classes as a means to encourage more students to pledge to make academic progress and graduate on time. This past May Temple graduated its first class where freshmen pledged to Fly in Four. In terms of outreach, Fly in Four has been quite successful. According to the university, 93 percent of the freshmen who entered in 2016 signed the Fly in Four pledge. So did 93 percent of the class that entered in 2017.
It’s one thing to get incoming students to sign on the dotted line, but have they followed through, making good progress towards a degree? Temple University, to its credit, is quite transparent about presenting such information.
For the class that entered in 2014, the first year that freshmen could pledge to Fly in Four, just under 4,000 of the nearly 4,500 who arrived that fall signed the pledge. Of those who did, 124, just over three percent, finished in three years, using AP credits to help them take more advanced courses earlier in their education. Just under a third were on track to graduate on time, two-thirds were not. The better news was that over 80 percent of this class had decided to remain at Temple to complete their degree, even if they had broken the pledge.
Temple University has not reported the four-year graduation rate for the full class that entered in 2014. But the university forecasted a four-year graduation rate of 61 percent as of last fall, including those who did and did not follow their pledge to Fly in Four. If this forecast proves true, or even comes close, this is an excellent performance for a state university that admits freshmen with a statistically weaker profile than schools such as Penn State-University Park, Rutgers-New Brunswick or the University of Pittsburgh.
An increased commitment to academic advising might have also helped students who arrived too early to pledge to Fly in Four. The students who entered in 2011 as freshmen were seniors during the first year of Fly in Four. Forty-four percent of their class graduated on time. The four-year graduation rate for those who arrived in 2012 rose to 48 percent, and for those who arrived in 2013, it rose again, to 52 percent.
It is fair to consider Fly in Four a success to date. It has improved academic advising at Temple, and encouraged more students to remain there to complete their degree, even if more time was necessary.
However, it is also fair to ask if Fly in Four will be a sustainable model as student academic interests change over time. Will Temple be able to add more faculty to teach more of the junior-senior level courses in majors such as Accounting, Engineering or Nursing, where many of the degree requirements are decided by professional associations?
Will the university also be able to improve upon its commitment to the needier students who pledged to Fly in Four? The university currently awards 500 need-based grants of $4,000/year to eligible students who continue to honors their pledge. It will be interesting to see if Temple will be able to award more and larger grants for future freshmen.
I hope that Temple University continues to improve upon its services and success with Fly in Four. This was an ambitious venture for such a large school, with over 29,000 undergraduates quite similar to UCLA in terms of academic options and student body size. But Temple University, though Fly in Four, has become more responsive to the students it attracts. That’s what a good school should do.
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