Graduation Rates – Campus Does Matter

Hajrasouliha.1Campus does matter for graduation rates and Amir Hajrasouliha has done the math.

Three physical campus dimensions, urbanism, greenness and on-campus living, are significantly correlated with student retention and graduation rates. His work controlled for the influences of student selectivity, class size, total enrollment, university types and education expenditures. However, he found no significant correlation between student success and land use organization or spatial configuration.

Amir’s dissertation, The Morphology of the Well Designed Campus is the first research to use rigorous statistical methods to quantify the relationship between the physical characteristics of a campus and student success. This is not a series of case studies or perceptual surveys. This work connects the theory and practice of campus planning to student success by carefully controlling for relevant variables.

This research also proposes an index, called Campus Score, which is composed of the three latent variables representing Urbanism, Greenness, and On-Campus Living. Two linear regressions show that Campus Score has significant associations with freshman retention rate and 6-year graduation rate. Considering control variables, a 1% increase in Campus Score is associated with an increase of the freshman retention rate by 0.0689 and an increase of the 6-year graduation rate by 0.0899. Interestingly, as compared to the Academic Ranking of World Universities (Shanghai Ranking), Campus Score has stronger associations with freshman retention rate and graduation rate.

This is a dramatic departure from the normal discussion.  Most campus planning literature is limited to individual projects and professional opinion.  This landmark research is a significant addition to understanding the dynamics of the physical campus.  Campus leaders and planners will need this and more to answer the questions they are facing as the digital transformation of higher education continues.

This is a link to an interview with Hajrasouliha, now a Lecturer in City and Regional Planning at Cal Poly – San Luis Obispo. Amir, Tom Fisher and Tom Gieryn will join me at the SCUP Pacific Regional via web conference for the session Why Campus Matters.

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