As a part of ongoing institutional assessment, Houston Graduate School of Theology (HGST) assesses the effectiveness of its educational processes in several ways. The report below presents two of those.
First, how do graduates rate HGST on the effectiveness of the school’s educational program? These data are from the ATS Graduating Student Questionnaire (GSQ), which measured students graduating in the 2010-2011 and 2011-2012 academic years. The information will include personal growth, satisfaction with progress of skills, and overall experience during seminary. The GSQ presents the average score from the answers of all graduates for many aspects of growth and skills. In 2010-2011, 33 graduates completed the questionnaire. In 2011-2012, 41 graduates completed it.
- In the area of personal growth, graduates reported that they were stronger in every category. The categories with highest scores included trust in God, self-confidence, self-knowledge, and strength of spiritual life.
- In the area of skills for future work, graduates reported satisfaction in all categories that applied to their degrees. (Master of Arts in Counseling graduates reported lower ratings in categories relating to church polity, worship, doctrine, and administration, none of which are included in their degree programs.) The highest categories for all graduates were the ability to teach, give spiritual direction, lead others, give pastoral counseling, and think theologically.
- Graduates rated their overall experience at HGST as positive in almost all categories. The only score that was neutral and below for some groups was the added time required to commute. As a commuter school in the city of Houston, this is probably unavoidable. However, categories that average strongly agree included accepted within school community, personal faith respected, able to integrate theology/ministry, know students from other ethnic groups, and made good friends here. Since HGST is characterized by diversity, these results are encouraging.
Second, what are the retention rates of students enrolling in degree programs at HGST? This question is answered in two ways. First, the length of time a student takes to complete a degree is important. The longer a student takes to graduate, the less likely the student is to finish. The goal for this report is that 80% of students will graduate within 75% of the maximum allotment of time for a degree. These data are from the HGST academic records, cross-referenced to the GSQ for the 2010-2011 and 2011-2012 academic years. For all graduates during in 2011 and 2012, 76% of graduates completed their work within 75% of the maximum for their degree programs. Below is a report according to degree program.
- The Master of Theological Studies is a new degree program, with only five graduates from the program. However, 80% of them have graduated within three years, which is one year less than the maximum of four years.
- In the Master of Arts in Counseling program, 64% of students graduated within four years, which is 75% of the maximum of five years. However, only three students went beyond the maximum, and one of those took a lengthy leave of absence during his program.
- In the MDiv program, 91% of students completed the program within 5.5 years (omitting three students who took leaves of more than three years before returning to complete the degree in a timely manner).
The second issue related to retention is the number of students who enter a degree program but do not graduate. The following data include students beginning in or after the 2005-2006 academic year. Several characteristics of HGST factor into retention rates. First, HGST is a non-residential campus, with all students commuting from across the metropolitan area. Therefore, they are often adding graduate school to an already busy lifestyle. Second, the median age of students at HGST is higher than most seminaries. Older students would tend to have a more complicated lifestyle than younger students. Third, HGST is unaffiliated with any denomination, church, or university. The following data is from the HGST academic database.
- In the Master of Theology Studies program (which began in 2007), 28% of students are no longer in the program and have not graduated.
- For the Master of Arts in Counseling degree, 38% of students entering 2005-2009 are no longer students and have not graduated.
- In the Master of Divinity degree program, 40% of students entering 2005-2009 are no longer students and have not graduated.