UT releases enrollment, retention and graduation rates report

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Despite recent initiatives to increase four-year graduation rates, the preliminary Fall 2013 Enrollment Analysis released Monday shows there has been little to no change in the statistic.

In May of 2011, President William Powers Jr. announced a goal to increase four-year graduation rates to 70 percent by 2016. According to the analysis, four-year graduation rates actually decreased from 52.2 percent in spring 2012 to 52 percent in spring 2013. Five-year and six-year graduation rates both increased, by 1.9 percent and 0.7 percent, respectively. 

David Laude, UT senior vice provost of enrollment and graduation management, said UT has re-emphasized alternate ways to earn academic credit — AP, dual enrollment, summer school and online credit — to speed up the graduation process for the class of 2017. 

“This is a reality of the modern college campus,” Laude said. “There are multiple ways to earn the … credit needed each academic year for a traditional 120-hour degree plan.”

Government sophomore Irina Yaremchuk is a transfer student from Austin Community College who plans to graduate on time. She said her academic adviser was very helpful in providing her withinformation, including which of her transferred classes counted for her degree. She said other departments and administrators were less than helpful.

“I wish I could praise UT’s financial aid office as well, but I honestly can’t,” Yaremchuck said. “While their online tools are helpful, I found it nearly impossible to get in touch with them.”

In response to decreases in state funding for higher education in recent years, Laude said the UT System has directed recurring and one-time allocations toward specific programs to improve graduation rates.

“Degrees earned in the STEM colleges like the Cockrell School and Natural Sciences are a bigger concern,” Laude said. “I will say that attention to this student population is our biggest priority in making 70 percent four-year graduation rates a reality.”

Sacha Kopp, associate dean for curriculum and programs, said the measures UT has implemented so far will require more than two years to come to fruition, and the freshman and sophomore years are critical to higher four-year graduation rates. 

The report stated that the one-year retention rate for the entering classes in fall 2011 and 2012 increased from 93.2 percent to 93.6 percent, which is the highest one-year retention in
UT history.

“The rate of passing grades in introductory biology, chemistry and calculus … were improved,” Kopp said. “[Students] who do not pass a course in their freshman year have a significantly lower likelihood of graduating on time, so this improvement is welcome news.”