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Tuesday, June 22, 2021

The improvements in the university’s graduation and retention rates come as UW welcomed its second largest-ever freshman class this fall.

UW retention, graduation rates reach new highs

According to newly released data, UW-Madison set records in its graduation and retention rates across a variety of categories last year and increased the amount of degrees it conferred. 

Based on data of freshmen who matriculated in 2014, the university’s six-year graduation rate, a rate that measures how many students graduate within six years, increased from 87.6 percent to 88.5 percent, a report from the Office of Academic Planning and Institutional Research shows.   

An institution’s six-year graduation rate ranks as one of the most influential factors in determining metrics and national standing in higher education, according to a UW-Madison news release.

At the same time, the report found UW’s four-year graduation rate increased as well to 71.2 percent, exceeding the 70 percent mark for the first time, according to statistics gathered on students who entered the university in 2016.

The 10-point increase from five years ago also represents an approximate nine point increase in comparison to peer institutions. 

Similarly, UW’s time-to-degree rate dropped to 3.92 years, the second year in a row the figure remained under four calendar years. Time-to-degree rate measures the amount of students who graduate a certain year, regardless of when they started. Graduation rates, on the other hand, measure the progress of a certain “entrance cohort,” the news release said. 

The data also reported strong numbers in graduation and retention rates among students of color and Pell grant recipients. 

Retention rates for “underrepresented domestic students of color” reached a record 95.9 percent, greater than UW’s overall retention rate at 95.2 percent. The four-year graduation rate also set a new high at 56.6 percent. 

“This university and its faculty and staff are working diligently every day to improve the experiences of students of color on this campus,” UW Chancellor Rebecca Blank said in the news release. “While this work is far from over, I’m encouraged by these latest figures and committed to making sure these positive trends continue.”

Recipients of the Pell grant, a federal program for low-income students and families, also reported a 95.9 percent retention rate and a 59 percent graduation rate — both new highs. 

The university also conferred 7,459 bachelor’s degrees last year, a new record and an increase of 300 from the previous year. Total degrees, including master’s and doctoral degrees, reached a new high of 11,131 and surpassed the 11,000 mark for the first time. 

The released figures come as the university welcomed its second largest-ever freshman class of 7,306, including a 4.6 percent increase in applicants as well. 

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UW officials attributed certain measures such as online tools to help undergraduate students find and enroll in relevant classes, bolstering academic and career advising and the overall character of the student body as reasons for the success. 

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