UT Sets Record for Four-Year Graduation Rates

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The number of students to graduate on time from UT reached record highs this year, with 60.9 percent of undergraduates earning their degrees in four years or less. But with just one year left to complete its lofty goal of getting 70 percent of undergraduate students out the door on schedule, will the university make it?

In 2011, UT announced an initiative to raise the four-year graduation rate from 52 percent that spring to 70 percent by 2017. Since then, graduation rates have gradually been rising,  and this year’s increase of 3.1 percentage points is one of the highest recorded improvements. UT’s executive vice president and provost Maurie McInnis says this year’s numbers are just part of the total progress of 10.3 percent since the goal was set. “[It’s] really remarkable to have such progress in such a short period of time, and that’s really exciting,” she says.

According to the news release, the data comes from the preliminary enrollment report conducted by the university after the 12th day of class each fall. The report also shows that UT welcomed 8,179 freshmen this fall—the largest incoming class to date. Even so, enrollment across the board remained steady at 51,334 because the number of students to graduate in six years or less increased to 81.2 percent.

McInnis says there are two reasons for the university’s drive to get students out in four years or less: one that benefits the student and one that benefits the state. She says graduating on time either gets students into the workforce sooner or allows them to start their graduate education earlier. “And that decreases the amount of student debt they take on board,” she says. “The longer that you’re out of the workforce is another year that you are not moving forward with your life.”

State-wise, McInnis says students who take five or six years to graduate occupy space that could go to another student. “By having more students graduate on time, we’ve been able to accommodate more first year students and more transfer students,” she says.

Though there’s still a long way to go to reach 70 percent by next year, McInnis says the university remains hopeful. The class of 2017—which set a record with 85.2 percent of students continuing to pursue their degrees after three years—was the first class to fully participate in what the university calls “student-success programming,” which provides the support students  need to graduate on time.

“From the day they walked on campus, they have heard what they’re supposed to do,” she says. “Stay on time, carry a full course load, stay on track, and graduate in eight semesters.”

McInnis says going forward, the university plans to remain focused on listening to students and trying to understand the impediments they might face. She says UT is examining some of the complexities in degree plans that have built up over the decades that might not be serving students—including those who switch their majors or are working toward two degrees.

“There are things that make sense from an educational perspective but there are also things we can simplify that would make it easier to graduate on time,” she says. “We remain focused on the goal and we’re doing everything we can to try and get there.”

Photo courtesy of Flickr/Phil Roeder.

 

 

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