School of Journalism Report Card – 2019

The School of Journalism believes 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 our 2017-18 accreditation and academic program review self-study 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 then again in 2011. 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 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!

Carol B. Schwalbe, director,
July 1, 2019

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

2. Retention rates – most students stay

Retention is an indicator of whether incoming freshmen tend to stay with the major or switch to another major by their second year. In fall 2018 about 72 percent of 2017-18 freshmen returned to the program. Our analysis indicates that some of our entering majors tend to move out to other majors by their sophomore year, more so than other parts of campus, as opposed to being a major that attracts students who switch to us from other programs. An introductory class for pre-majors started in 2008 has helped students decide whether journalism is for them, which has lowered the retention rate. We consider that a good thing—students continue in the major dedicated and knowing what they want, which 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%

3. Graduation rate better than ever

Below are the percentages of freshman journalism students who graduate within four years and within six years, compared to the University of Arizona as a whole. The graduation rate continues to rise, achieving an all-time high of 56 percent in 2018 for the students who started in 2014.

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%    
2014 86 56% 49%    

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, typically for seniors. Below is a comparison showing the better scores of seniors compared to pre-majors for a variety of categories, including ethics, numeracy, writing, media law and the role of the press in society. Scores for grammar continue to rise.

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 leave the school more comfortable with technology

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, data visualization 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 much more comfortable with technology than pre-majors, particularly in audio recording, photography, social media, InDesign and Final Cut Pro/X/Premiere.

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 increase annually. Some of the ratings have dropped in the past year, which has been attributed to the fact that more students are participating in internships. In the past, only the most motivated students landed internships. Now a broader selection of students are interning, which is good for them!


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 3.21, about the same as students university-wide.  

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.