August 27, 2010
There are many special circumstances that contribute to a dismal graduation rate at Haskell Indian Nations University, but recently published data nonetheless provide additional evidence of the need to resolve leadership issues at the school.
Using figures reported to the U.S. Department of Education, the Washington Monthly magazine this week published a list of the nation’s 50 four-year, public and not-for-profit private colleges with the lowest graduation rates. Haskell tied for 13th place on the list, with a graduation rate of 9 percent. That means that only 9 percent of students entering Haskell in pursuit of a bachelor’s degree successfully complete such a degree within six years.
KU officials often point to the state’s qualified admissions policy as the reason for its own low graduation rate. They say the admissions requirements for graduates of Kansas high schools aren’t high enough to insure those students are adequately prepared for university work.
The grade point average, ACT scores or high school rankings required for admission to Haskell are considerably lower that those at KU. All Haskell students must be members of federally recognized American Indian tribes. Many of those who live on reservations come from low-income families and high schools that may not provide the best preparation for college work. It’s safe to say the percentage of ill-prepared freshmen who arrive on KU’s campus each year pales by comparison to the percentage Haskell faces.
To their credit, Haskell officials responded to the publicity about their low graduation rate not with excuses but with a commitment to do better. To that end, they are preparing to open the “Haskell Success Center” which will provide centralized advising and other services designed to help students complete their degrees.
That’s a good step, but it seems to us that there is nothing more important to Haskell and the success of its students than to provide the strong leadership the school has been lacking for some time. Linda Warner, who still is the school’s official president, has been required to fulfill other assignments for the Bureau of Indian Affairs and hasn’t been allowed to concentrate on the needs of Haskell.
BIA officials said earlier this year that a decision about Haskell’s president would be forthcoming after a new director began work at the Bureau of Indian Education. That happened June 1, but no decision about Haskell has been announced.
Because of the special circumstances faced by the Haskell student body, raising the school’s graduation rate is a daunting challenge. Restoring strong leadership and vision to the school is the only way it will have a chance of rising to that challenge.