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Graduation, retention rates up for Twin Cities campus

By Rick Moore

Published on February 19, 2005

Graduation rates at the University of Minnesota's Twin Cities campus are continuing a decade-long steady ascent, and retention rates are on the rise, too, according to figures published in the 2004-05 University Plan, Performance, and Accountability Report, which was submitted to the Board of Regents last week.

The four-year graduation rate for students entering in 2000 was 32.3 percent, up from 32.1 percent for 1999. The five-year graduation rate saw a substantial gain, up to 56 percent for students entering in 1999 compared to 50.4 percent in the previous year. The six-year rate increased from 55.1 percent to 56.9 percent.

"We certainly can't declare victory yet--we still have more work to do to increase the rate of improvement," says Swan. "But if this were an election, the early returns would be promising."

"I am encouraged by our upward trend in graduation rates, and I think that the new services and policies we have put in place will continue to produce improvements," says Craig Swan, vice provost for undergraduate education.

"Accountable to U" available online

The complete 2004-2005 University Plan, Performance, and Accountability Report is available at Accountable to U.

The University expects to see an additional increase in graduation rates on the heels of a new policy, implemented in 2002, that gives students free tuition beyond 13 credits per semester and requires students who take less than a full load to meet with a counselor to obtain a waiver. Students who were freshmen in the fall of 2002 have averaged 15 credits per semester, which would put them on pace to graduate in four years.

"We certainly can't declare victory yet--we still have more work to do to increase the rate of improvement," says Swan. "But if this were an election, the early returns would be promising."

The U's Twin Cities campus has established ambitious goals of improving its graduation rates. By the year 2012, it hopes to improve the four-year graduation rate to 50 percent, the five-year graduation rate to 70 percent, and the six-year rate to 75 percent. While the gains in the previous year may seem insignificant, the increases over the last decade are noteworthy; the current four-year graduation rate of 32.3 percent is more than double the figure from 1992 (15.2 percent).

Retention rates also showed improvement. The Twin Cities campus achieved a first-year retention rate of 86.3 percent (for students entering in 2003), up from 85.8 percent the previous year and the highest ever since the U began measuring retention rates. Second- and third-year retention rates are 77 percent and 72.7 percent, showing increases of 1 and 3 percent, respectively.

As a means of improving graduation and retention rates, the University has placed a greater emphasis on improving the student experience on all of its campuses. And to help gauge student satisfaction, in 1997 it began administering a Student Experiences Survey (SES) every other year. According to the 2003 SES, students are giving the University a higher rating in virtually all categories, including overall quality of academic programs, overall physical environment, quality of classrooms, quality of instruction, and size of classes. The only category that saw a dip in its rating from the 2001 SES was the cost of attending the University.

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