Three schools in Omaha — the University of Nebraska at Omaha, Creighton University and Metro Community College — produced big increases in degrees granted over a 10-year period, a new report shows.
Among area institutions that confer at least 1,000 degrees a year, those three, plus Grand Island-based Central Community College and Iowa Western Community College, had the highest rates of increase from 2005-06 through 2015-16.
Enrollment is one measure of how busy an institution is, but getting students through to graduation is arguably more important.
“This is essentially the thing that we talk about the most on campus,” said Dan Shipp, vice chancellor for student affairs at UNO. “We’ve made this a core priority of this institution.”
In some cases the increases in number of graduates is at least partly due to having more students. But some colleges are also more successful in helping students complete their education.
For example, the six-year graduation rate at UNO has improved from 40.1 percent among freshmen who started in 2000 to 46.4 percent among freshmen who started in 2009, UNO said.
B.J. Reed, senior vice chancellor at UNO, said that 20 years ago academic support and advising weren’t as strong at UNO as they are today.
Metro produced 45.1 percent more degree recipients between 2005-06 and 2015-16, most in two-year associate degrees but some in shorter-term certificates; Creighton produced 43.4 percent more degrees, mostly of the four-year and grad-level variety; and UNO 40.3 percent, primarily in bachelor’s degrees.
Central’s 43.6 percent gain was fueled largely by certificates requiring less than one or two years of study in fields such as welding, auto technology and licensed practical nursing.
Iowa Western Community College reported a 55.2 percent increase in various kinds of degrees, including two-year diplomas.
Creighton’s numbers were boosted by record enrollment of 8,435 in 2015-16.
The Coordinating Commission for Postsecondary Education in Lincoln produced the data last month. The Iowa data came from the Iowa Board of Regents and Iowa Western.
Michael Baumgartner, executive director of the Nebraska coordinating commission, said completion of college degrees results in an educated workforce.
“That’s just critical to our competitiveness as a state,” Baumgartner said.
Nationwide, he said, the college completion movement has intensified over the past 10 years. Having a credential — a certificate or a degree — is important to getting a good job, he said.
Metro President Randy Schmailzl said the recession of the late 2000s led to a big increase in enrollment and degrees conferred at his college. People enrolled at Metro for retraining during that slump.
“Metro’s all about jobs, helping you move into the workforce or move up the ladder in the workforce,” Schmailzl said. “I’m not hoping for another recession, by the way.”
Metro offers programs in information technology, auto and diesel mechanics, truck driving, health-related careers, welding, plumbing, construction and other areas, including academic transfer programs.
Schmailzl said the average age of students at Metro is 27.2 years old. More than 30 percent of the college’s enrollment is made up of minorities, and about two-thirds of students are part-timers.
“They need to earn while they learn,” he said of typical Metro students.
The University of Nebraska-Lincoln continues to be the largest granter of degrees in the state, conferring 4,961 in 2015-16, a 13 percent increase over 4,385 in 2005-06.
Some small institutions had huge rates of increase in degrees conferred but started with small numbers. Those include Clarkson College, Nebraska Methodist College, Bryan College of Health Sciences in Lincoln, Midland University in Fremont and York College.
Only a few nonprofit colleges had drops in number of degrees granted over the 10-year stretch. Those included the College of St. Mary, Hastings College, Southeast Community College and Northern Iowa.
Many of the for-profit colleges, including Kaplan University and some hair design and cosmetology schools, had declines.
Number of degrees awarded in '05-06 and '15-16 and percent change
Clarkson: 147; 390; 165.3
Neb Methodist: 185; 345; 86.5
Midland: 192; 335; 74.5
Bryan College of Health: 95; 157; 65.3
York: 93; 151; 62.4
Iowa Western CC: 757; 1,175; 55.2
Metro CC: 1,097; 1,592; 45.1
Central CC: 1,617; 2,322; 43.6
Creighton: 1,635; 2,344; 43.4
UNO: 2,467; 3,461; 40.3
Concordia: 450; 620; 37.8
Northeast CC: 723; 958; 32.5
Mid-Plains CC: 339; 445; 31.3
Bellevue: 2,328; 3,038; 30.5
Iowa State: 5,894; 7,544; 28.0
Western Neb CC: 231; 288; 24.7
Chadron: 435; 542; 24.6
Neb Wesleyan: 432; 528; 22.2
UNK: 1,140; 1,389; 21.8
Union: 168; 201; 19.6
UNL: 4,385; 4,961; 13.1
Peru: 349; 388; 11.2
Doane: 732; 809; 10.5
Iowa: 6,463; 6,962; 7.7
Grace: 97; 104; 7.2
UNMC: 1,385; 1,434; 3.5
Wayne: 705; 723; 2.6
Northern Iowa: 2,933; 2,692; -8.2
Southeast CC: 1,769; 1,544; -12.7
College of St. Mary: 307; 263; -14.3
Hastings: 250; 189; -24.4