School of Journalism Report Card – 2021

We at the University of Arizona School of Journalism believe in holding students accountable and teaching journalists how to hold government accountable, so we should hold ourselves accountable!

Self-assessment is paramount for improvement. It’s also an essential element to remaining one of the 100 or so journalism programs in the nation accredited by the Accrediting Council on Education in Journalism and Mass Communications. On this page we provide quantifiable measurements of school performance and what we are doing to improve in our goal of educating the world’s best journalists to serve Arizona and society at large. We also have provided all our 2017-18 re-accreditation and academic program review information online, including site-team reports since 1964, when the program was first accredited.

The school adopted its first assessment plan in 1999 and updated it in 2004 and 2011 and will start the process to update it once again. The goal is to figure out whether students are leaving the program prepared for the workplace and competent in the school’s 11 core student learning outcomes, which are based on ACEJMC’s 12 Professional Values and Competencies. Students, parents and the public must know that their tax and tuition dollars are making a difference. The school employs quantitative and qualitative assessment indicators, both direct and indirect, of student learning (see the assessment plan). Below are some of the indicators of the school’s performance. If you have any questions or suggestions, please let us know!

Michael McKisson, interim director,
August 15, 2021

1. Enrollment allows more attention for students

Undergraduate enrollment has gradually declined over the past 10 years in an effort to bring class sizes in line with faculty numbers, and as a result, students are given the attention they deserve. The school is large enough to support resources for students, yet small enough that students receive individualized attention by world-class faculty.

Year Majors
2000-01 341
2001-02 388
2002-03 463
2003-04 499
2004-05 563
2005-06 643
2006-07 680
2007-08 665
2008-09 653
2009-10 608
2010-11 558
2011-12 544
2012-13 498
2013-14 485
2014-15 497
2015-16 448
2016-17 471
2017-18 414
2018-19 372
2019-20 374
2020-21 359

2. Retention rates – most students stay

Retention is an indicator of whether incoming first-year students tend to stay with the major or switch to another major by their second year. In fall 2019, 82 percent of 2018-19 first-year students returned to the program. Our analysis indicates that some of our entering majors move to other majors by their sophomore year, as opposed to being a major that attracts students who switch to us from other programs. An introductory class started in 2008 has helped students decide whether journalism is for them, which ensures that students who continue in the major are dedicated and know what they want. And that leads to higher graduation rates for the school (see below).

Fall Term Freshmen Returned
2nd Year
UA return rate
2001 63 83% 76%
2002 91 78% 77%
2003 75 79% 79%
2004 101 83% 79%
2005 102 74% 79%
2006 96 75% 80%
2007 82 76% 79%
2008 96 82% 78%
2009 104 72% 77%
2010 110 77% 77%
2011 110 77% 80%
2012 82 80% 78%
2013 74 78% 81%
2014 86 81% 80%
2015 67 78% 80%
2016 51 86% 83%
2017 57 72% 81%
2018 76 72% 84%
2019 61 82% 86%

3. Graduation rate strong despite pandemic

Below are the percentages of freshmen journalism students who graduate within four years and within six years, compared to the University of Arizona as a whole. The graduation rate dipped from an all-time high of 61 percent in 2019 to 58 percent in 2020 for the fourth-year graduates who started in 2016 but continues to consistently outpace the overall UA rate.

Fall Term Freshmen Graduated 4th Year UA 4th Year Average Graduated 6th Year UA 6th Year Average
2001 63 37% 34% 56% 56%
2002 91 35% 32% 59% 57%
2003 75 29% 32% 56% 58%
2004 101 41% 34% 56% 60%
2005 102 39% 36% 65% 61%
2006 96 44% 35% 64% 61%
2007 82 42% 40% 54% 61%
2008 96 47% 40% 54% 60%
2009 104 40% 43% 64% 61%
2010 110 49% 42% 59% 60%
2011 111 47% 45% 62% 63%
2012 82 50% 48% 57% 55%
2013 74 55% 48% 63% 65%
2014 86 56% 49% 64% 65%
2015 67 61% 50%    
2016 51 58% 54%    

4. Students graduate with greater journalism knowledge

The school administers a multiple-choice test to pre-majors as they come into the major (Journalism 105) and in their capstone school media courses (Journalism 490), typically for seniors. Below is a comparison showing the better scores of seniors compared to pre-majors for a variety of categories, including ethics, writing, media law and the role of the press in society. We’ve seen big improvements in the students’ understanding of the press and democracy, ethics and press law.

5. Students leave the school better writers

The school tests beginning students’ writing ability (in Journalism 205) and compares it to the writing ability of those in senior school media courses. Students write a story based on provided notes, and a panel of judges rates the stories according to several criteria. In recent years we have seen marked improvement in writing ability. In 2012-13 we noticed poor scores in numeracy and accuracy, so we increased the attention to math for journalists in the curriculum. By 2014-15 the scores had tripled, and they continue to improve. The changes seemed to have worked.

6. Students' technology comfort dipped slightly

The school wants to make sure students are prepared to cope with increasing technology in the workplace and has implemented several classes to address multimedia, video editing, mobile apps and other skills. Students are required to take a class in photojournalism and another class in multimedia. Surveys of technological comfort show that those in senior school media courses are more comfortable with technology than first-year students, particularly in audio recording, photography, social media and Final Cut Pro/X/Premiere. The recent year saw a slight decline in their comfort level, which may be attributed to being remote during the pandemic. 

7. Employers satisfied with UA journalism interns

The school initiated several steps to make sure students are well-prepared for the job market and gain the practical on-the-job experience they need. This included developing an “apprentice” class in 2007 with the local newspaper. The school hired an internship coordinator in 2007 to help prepare students for the workplace. Intern supervisors rate the interns on a variety of measures, including their writing and initiative, and those ratings have continued to hold steady. The overall satisfaction of our students rebounded during the 20-21 academic year and it is the second-highest satisfaction score we have recorded.


8. Average GPA of journalism students increasing

In 2006 the school implemented a minimum GPA of 2.5 to become a major, which was a little higher than the standard for remaining at the university (2.0) but still lower than the required GPA levels of some campus units. As a result, the average GPA of journalism majors has ranged from 3.01 to 3.25, about the same as students university-wide, and with a steady increase over the past three years.

9. Students tend to rate teaching effectiveness higher than overall college

Each semester students fill out an online survey rating for each of their classes and professors. Over the years the average score on these Teacher Course Evaluations for “teaching effectiveness” has generally been higher than the average college-wide scores.

*The university switched from a faculty-oriented TCE (Teacher-Course Evaluation) to a course-focused SCS (Student Course Survey) in the 2019-20 academic year. The new survey does not include a rating for teaching effectiveness. We are instead using the question, “This course expanded my knowledge and skills in this subject matter,” as a substitute metric to ensure students are learning in our classes.