MADISON – University of Wisconsin System graduation and retention rates continue to rise, two strong indicators that students are being effectively served despite limited resources, according to the latest university accountability report.

Released this week in conjunction with the February meeting of the UW System Board of Regents, the report outlines how the university holds itself accountable each year to students, alumni and the state, similar to how corporations report to their stockholders.

UW System President Katharine C. Lyall said the accountability report responds to multiple stakeholders and outlines the tradeoffs the UW System is making to accommodate a difficult fiscal environment.

For example, she noted the hiring of instructional academic staff to replace faculty positions lost in budget cuts; the need to balance affordability and student access; and the struggle to maintain and modernize aging facilities.

“We should not take the good performance of our institutions for granted-it reflects the hard work of thousands of faculty and staff, the leadership of our chancellors and public support for our mission,” Lyall said. “The budget-cutting challenges we have faced this year, and the additional cuts we will face next year, are forcing some tough choices and will require continuing efforts from all of us if we are to maintain our core capacity to serve Wisconsin in the future.”

Overall, the UW System met or exceeded 11 of 20 targets in 2002-03, according to the accountability report. These include increasing graduation and retention rates; enrolling more students in distance education courses and precollege programs; and boosting collaborative agreements with the Wisconsin Technical College System.

Other targets met or exceeded, the report shows, include keeping administrative costs among the lowest nationally for public university systems; decreasing the number of credits students attempt to complete their degrees; having students exceed state and national averages on exams for graduate school and professional fields like accounting; providing student learning experiences outside the classroom; and committing appropriate resources for professional development.

The report outlines how results are mixed on seven measures: access rate for students of color; advising; applications of theory; opportunities for students to work on research with faculty outside the classroom; student volunteering and voting participation; student satisfaction with computing skills learned in college; and maintenance backlogs. Two other measures-increasing students’ understanding of diversity and student study abroad experiences-still leave room for improvement.

Lyall will present the report, titled “Achieving Excellence,” to the Board of Regents at 12:30 p.m. Thursday (Feb. 6) in Room 1820 of Van Hise Hall on the UW-Madison campus.

The UW System was one of the first state university systems to issue a public accountability report when it began doing so in 1993. Its report differs from other state-level accountability efforts by combining traditional indicators (access, retention, graduation, technology, resource management) with measures that examine the overall university environment and how it fosters learning and success.

Prepared by the UW System Office of Policy Analysis and Research, the report is available online at the webpage for the Office of Policy Analysis & Research and as part of the regents’ agenda in the meeting materials archive. This year’s report also contains 15 institution-specific accountability reports, which were first included last year.

Media Contact

Erik Christianson UW System 608-262-5061