MADISON – The University of Wisconsin System continues to make progress in several important areas used to assess student success, says a new report.

Most UW campuses have reduced the number of credits students attempt while completing their undergraduate degrees, and they have also increased their retention and graduation rates, according to the report from the Office of Policy Analysis and Research.

The Board of Regents will review the report on Thursday (Dec. 5), at 11 a.m. in 1820 Van Hise Hall on the UW-Madison campus. The board was first briefed on these student success measures in May and asked for an update at its December meeting.

The level of success varies by campus, but overall the UW System has reduced the average credits-to-degree from 145 in 1994-95 to 136 in 2001-02. The Board of Regents in 1995 set a goal of reducing credits-to-degree from 145 to 140 by 2000-01.

With improved efforts on each campus, the UW System met the goal in 1998. Each UW campus set its own target for reducing credits-to-degree, and every institution but one met their goal.

The report also shows the UW System is increasing its second-year retention rate. This is an important measure of student success, as most college students who drop out of school do so in their first year.

The UW System met its second-year retention rate goal of 79.5 percent this year and is on schedule to achieve its overall goal of 82 percent by 2004, the report says. Nine of 13 UW campuses achieved or exceeded their target retention rates.
Campuses are improving retention by enhancing student advising, improving new student orientation and strengthening the freshman year experience, the report says.

“Taken together, (these strategies) represent a major effort on the part of the UW System to achieve its goal of providing 1,000 additional graduates from each entering class,” says the report’s executive summary.

The UW System is ahead of schedule to increase its graduation rate, according to the report. The six-year graduation rate is currently 61.9 percent, the highest ever, and the university is on track to meet its target of 64 percent by 2004. Eight of 13 campuses met or exceeded their goals for increasing their graduation rates.

Each UW campus has submitted to UW System its own plan for decreasing credits-to-degree and increasing second-year retention and graduation rates.

“The goal is to help students to succeed, not to change a number,” said Frank Goldberg, associate vice president of policy analysis and research, who will present the report to the regents.

The UW System’s efforts to increase student success have resulted in a dramatic increase in the number of skilled graduates for the Wisconsin workforce.

During the 2001-02 academic year, the university awarded 21,304 bachelor’s degrees, the highest amount ever in a single year. In 1996-97, the UW System awarded 19,625 bachelor’s degrees, and in 1976-77 16,395 undergraduate degrees were awarded.

The board on Thursday will also consider a related measure to adopt an excess credits policy. The policy is designed to help reduce the number of credits students take while working on their undergraduate degrees.

The proposed policy suggests that campuses review academic programs requiring more than 130 credits; identify and counsel students who might accumulate more than 165 credits; and implement a surcharge, starting in Fall 2004, equal to 100 percent of resident tuition for in-state students who take more than 165 credits or 30 credits more than their degree requirements.

The majority of UW degree programs require 120 credits, but one in five requires more than 120, mostly in education, allied health and engineering.

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Erik Christianson UW System 608-262-5061