How is USHE working to help increase graduation rates?

According to an analysis by the Chronicle of Higher Education of U.S. Department of Education data on 2017 graduation rates, the University of Utah made the top 100 institutions with the best graduation rates in the nation compared to other public four-year institutions. The analysis shows that within six years, the U had a 67.4% graduation rate from a cohort of 2,368 bachelor’s degree-seeking students.

At the March 2019 Board meeting, the University of Utah outlined one of the steps they are taking to increase degree completion rates even further during their tuition presentation.

Through the expansion of online undergraduate programs, with an online-only tuition and fees schedule, the university hopes the flexibility will increase the number of students completing their degree. 

The Board of Regents and public higher education institutions in Utah are committed to increasing graduation rates among their students as part of the Board’s strategic priorities in the areas of Affordable Access, Timely Completion, Workforce and Research, and Capacity and Growth.

At USHE institutions, graduation rates of first-time, full-time students who graduated within six years for a bachelor’s degree and three years for an associate degree ranged from 22%-67% in 2017. See the full list of graduation rates.

Currently, USHE is working toward completion on campuses through guided pathways, high impact practices, competency-based education, and Degrees When Due.

Guided Pathways: designed to assist incoming, transfer, and returning college students to enroll in and complete the appropriate classes/curriculum for meeting their educational goals. Assistance from pathways to completion starts with the first year of enrollment, transfer, or re-enrollment, and continues through to program completion.

  • USHE’s meta-major (an area of study or cluster of disciplines) working group worked over the past two years to identify and align meta-majors across the system and to identify appropriate math pathways for those meta-majors.
  • Majors Committees meet annually to align lower-division courses within programs.
  • The Adult Learner Working Group actively engages with adult learners to learn how to best meet their needs.

High Impact Practices: service learning, internships, senior capstones, research with faculty, and study abroad programs, which are proven to increase retention and graduation rates.

  • In November of 2017, the Board prioritized high impact practices and set a goal that institutions ensure 100% of their students participate in at least two HIPs, one in the first 30 credits and the second in or within major, and report back to the Board on student access to HIPs. The USHE High Impact Practices Committee meets regularly to address this initiative.

Competency-Based Education: Competency-Based General Education programs are ongoing at Salt Lake Community College and Utah State University. USHE has been actively engaged with both institutions and regularly convenes meetings with point people from other institutions to provide updates on their progress.

Degrees When Due: an effort to close attainment gaps, especially for students with some college, but no degree.

  • USHE is the system lead for the Degrees When Due campaign to re-engage adult learners, a project of the Institute on Higher Education Policy. Dixie State University, Utah Valley University, and Utah State University are participating in this pilot. All three are identifying students who have stopped out and not completed degree programs elsewhere to come back and complete an associate degree.
  • U of U and UVU also already have programs designed to reengage students who stopped out but have less than a year left to finish their bachelor degrees.