Public Accountability Data 2015-2016

The Richard T. Robertson School of Media and Culture (called the School of Mass Communications prior to Jan. 18, 2014) at Virginia Commonwealth University is among 111 programs at colleges and universities in the United States and abroad fully accredited by the Accrediting Council on Education in Journalism and Mass Communications. The ACEJMC requires accredited programs to post their retention and graduation data.

Retention and Graduation Data

In August 2016, Virginia Commonwealth University's Office of Planning and Decision Support provided these statistics [the link will open in a new window, because the chart is very wide] for the Robertson School. The data track each first-year (freshman) class of mass comm majors. The statistics show the percentage of students who continue in mass comm each year and then graduate within four, five or six years. Here is another way to present the data, by focusing on each first-year class one at a time.

Fall 2008: First-Time Full-Time Mass Communications Majors
Original cohort 180
Changed majors (any time after their first semester) 61 (33.9%)
Retained 1 year 67.2%
Retained 2 years 50.3%
Retained 3 years 44.1%
Graduated in 4 years or less 27.4%
Graduated in 5 years or less 35.2%
Graduated in 6 years or less 36.9%

 

Fall 2009: First-Time Full-Time Mass Communications Majors
Original cohort 157
Changed majors (any time after their first semester) 43 (27.4%)
Retained 1 year 74.5%
Retained 2 years 63.1%
Retained 3 years 56.1%
Graduated in 4 years or less 45.9%
Graduated in 5 years or less 52.2%
Graduated in 6 years or less 53.5%

 

Fall 2010: First-Time Full-Time Mass Communications Majors
Original cohort 127
Changed majors (any time after their first semester) 37 (29.1%)
Retained 1 year 68.5%
Retained 2 years 55.1%
Retained 3 years 48.0%
Graduated in 4 years or less 37.0%
Graduated in 5 years or less 46.5%
Graduated in 6 years or less 46.5%

 

Fall 2011: First-Time Full-Time Mass Communications Majors
Original cohort 136
Changed majors (any time after their first semester) 27 (19.9%)
Retained 1 year 73.5%
Retained 2 years 61.8%
Retained 3 years 50.7%
Graduated in 4 years or less 33.1%
Graduated in 5 years or less 43.4%
Graduated in 6 years or less --

 

Fall 2012: First-Time Full-Time Mass Communications Majors
Original cohort 116
Changed majors (any time after their first semester) 25 (21.6%)
Retained 1 year 80.2%
Retained 2 years 67.2%
Retained 3 years 58.6%
Graduated in 4 years or less 39.7%
Graduated in 5 years or less --
Graduated in 6 years or less --

 

Fall 2013: First-Time Full-Time Mass Communications Majors
Original cohort 122
Changed majors (any time after their first semester) 29 (23.8%)
Retained 1 year 64.8%
Retained 2 years 54.9%
Retained 3 years --
Graduated in 4 years or less --
Graduated in 5 years or less --
Graduated in 6 years or less --

 

Fall 2014: First-Time Full-Time Mass Communications Majors
Original cohort 105
Changed majors (any time after their first semester) 10 (9.5%)
Retained 1 year 78.1%
Retained 2 years --
Retained 3 years --
Graduated in 4 years or less --
Graduated in 5 years or less --
Graduated in 6 years or less --

 

One wrinkle in the reporting method used in the statistics above is how it treats first-year students who start in mass comm but then change majors. The graduation rates above reflect the fact that these students do not graduate as mass comm majors -- which is true. However, many if not most of these students do graduate from VCU, but in another discipline. Our reported graduation rates would be much higher if we tracked only students who start and stay as mass comm majors. According to the above data, for example:

¶ 90 first-year students entered the mass comm major in Fall 2010 and remained in that major during their time at VCU. Sixty-six percent of them graduated within six years. (VCU's overall six-year graduation rate is 62 percent.)

¶ 91 first-year students entered the mass comm major in Fall 2012 and remained in that major during their time at VCU. Fifty-one percent of them graduated within four years.

Another wrinkle is that the data do not include students who enter the Robertson School after their first year from other VCU majors or from other universities. The Robertson School serves hundreds of such students. This is why the number of bachelor's degrees we award each year far exceeds the number of first-year students majoring in mass comm:

Academic year2010-112011-122012-132013-142014-152015-16
Bachelor's degrees awarded 253 234 269 301 272 330

During the 2007-08 academic year, the VCU School of Mass Communications awarded fewer than 200 bachelor's degrees, according to the university's Office of Planning and Decision Support. This past year, we graduated a record number of students.

We serve more than 1,100 mass comm majors at VCU:

 Fall 2010Fall 2011Fall 2012Fall 2013Fall 2014Fall 2015
First-year mass comm majors 127 137 118 122 105 89
Transfer students enrolled in mass comm 106 129 116 132 138 111
Total undergraduate enrollment 1,196 1,226 1,260 1,270 1,220  1,102

In addition, the Robertson School serves about 100 undergraduates pursuing a minor in media studies. Moreover, the school's faculty also serves students in two master's programs (Strategic Public Relations and Multimedia Journalism) and an interdisciplinary doctoral program (Media, Art and Text). All of the above data come from VCU's Office of Planning and Decision Support (OPDS). Besides requiring the publication of retention and graduation data, the Accrediting Council for Education in Journalism and Mass Communications suggested that accredited schools provide the public with additional indicators of student achievement.

Internship supervisor surveys

VCU mass communications majors are required to complete an internship in which they work closely with media professionals. Between Fall 2015 and Summer 2016, more than 350 students enrolled in our MASC 493 Fieldwork/Internship course. At the end of the internship, the supervisor at the work site must evaluate the student's performance. Here is a summary of the supervisor evaluations for 2015-16.

1 (poor)2 (fair)3 (good)4 (very good)5 (excellent)Average rating
Rate the ability of the intern to work well with others in the workplace. Rate the student on a scale of 1 to 5. One means the intern works poorly with others; 5 means the intern works exceptionally well with others.
0% 1% 6% 29% 64% 4.6
Rate the intern’s diligence in completing tasks on a 1 to 5 scale. One means the intern shows little or no diligence; 5 means the intern demonstrates great diligence.
0% 4% 12% 24% 60% 4.4
On a scale of 1 to 5, rate the intern's dependability in attendance, meeting deadlines, and punctuality.
2% 3% 10% 25% 61% 4.4
On a scale of 1 to 5, rate the intern's ability to follow directions.
1% 4% 9% 24% 62% 4.4
On a scale of 1 to 5, rate the intern's ability to learn the tasks assigned. One means the intern learned very slowly; 5 means the intern learned exceptionally quickly.
0% 2% 10% 28% 62% 4.5
On a scale of 1 to 5, rate the intern's ability to utilize surrounding resources.
0% 3% 14% 28% 56% 4.4
On a scale of 1 to 5, rate the intern's ability to take initiative.
1% 5% 14% 28% 52% 4.2
On a scale of 1 to 5, rate the intern's enthusiasm for the experience.
1% 2% 9% 21% 68% 4.5
On a scale of 1 to 5, rate the intern's willingness to ask for and use guidance.
1% 2% 15% 30% 53% 4.3
On a scale of 1 to 5, rate the intern's professionalism in the workplace.
1% 2% 8% 25% 63% 4.5
On a scale of 1 to 5, rate the intern's overall performance. One means very poor; 5 means exceptionally good.
0% 4% 8% 26% 62% 4.5

Note: The numbers may not total 100% because of rounding and skipped responses. Also as part of the survey, supervisors were asked, "Under the correct circumstances, would you hire this intern?" More than 84 percent of the supervisors said yes; 6 percent said no; and the others did not respond to that question.

Student awards

Students from the Robertson School consistently win scores of awards every year in international, national, regional and other competitions. Here is a sampling of student awards and honors from the past year:

¶ VCU undergraduate advertising students won a Bronze Pencil Award in this year's international One Show Competition; 10 awards, including Best in Show, from the 2016 ADDY Awards; and Gold, Silver and Best of Show honors in the Richmond Show.

¶ VCU students won 14 awards, including four first-place honors, in the Society of Professional Journalists’ 2015 Mark of Excellence competition for Region 2. A student in the school's Capital News Service won fourth place in the breaking news competition of the Hearst Foundation’s Journalism Awards Program. Also, VCU’s student newspaper, the Commonwealth Times, won nine awards in the 2016 Virginia Press Association contest — including first place for a photo taken by a CNS journalist.

Job placement data

The State Council of Higher Education for Virginia recently started tracking what happens to college students after they graduate. SCHEV acknowledges that its system is limited: It tracks only college graduates who find work in Virginia, for example. (Many of our graduates go to work for advertising agencies, news organizations and public relations firms out of state.) Moreover, the system may not capture graduates who are working as independent contractors, such as freelance journalists. Furthermore, SCHEV notes, "Wage outcomes of graduates do not measure the quality or effectiveness of any institution. Instead, they provide basic facts about the experiences of graduates after entering the workforce and indications as to broadest levels of outcome in the Commonwealth -- full-time employment, part-time enrollment, and enrollment in higher-level programs." With those caveats, here are SCHEV's latest statistics comparing VCU mass comm graduates with all other VCU graduates, and with mass comm graduates from all Virginia colleges and universities. These numbers cover graduates who received bachelor's degrees between 2007-08 and 2011-12. (The statistics reflect what the graduates were doing 18 months after earning their degrees.)

  Total graduates  Employed full-time in Virginia  Average salary 
VCU Robertson School of Media and Culture 1,100 56% $25,923
All VCU graduates 20,355 50% $32,052
Mass comm graduates from all Virginia institutions 1,637 51% $25,101