MADISON — The University of Wisconsin System’s efforts to strengthen quality and increase efficiency have substantially improved three key measures of student success-credits-to-degree, time-to-degree, and graduation rates, according to a new report.

Produced by the UW System Office of Policy Analysis and Research, the report says the average number of credits UW System students attempt to complete their bachelor’s degrees has dropped from 145 to 137 since the 1993-94 academic year.

This has reduced the time students take to complete their degrees and improved graduation rates, especially the four-year rate, says the report, which will be discussed at the May 9 Board of Regents meeting.

Titled “Institutional Efficiency and Student Success: The Relationship Between Credits-to-Degree, Time-to-Degree and Graduation Rates,” the report outlines the UW System’s efforts to reduce the number of credits taken by undergraduate students while completing their degrees.

Citing problems with course availability, the number of graduates with excessive credits, and increasing time to graduate, the Board of Regents in 1995 set a goal of reducing the average number of credits-to-degree from 145 to 140 by 2000-01.

To reduce credits-to-degree and time-to-degree and increase graduation rates, UW campuses revised degree requirements, enhanced student advising, reduced the number of students who drop classes, encouraged advanced placement courses in high school and improved course availability.

Most degree programs require 120 credits, but one in five requires more than 120. Most of those programs are in education, allied health and engineering, where degree requirements are set to meet professional and occupational license expectations.

Every four-year UW campus reduced its average number of credits-to-degree, and 10 of 13 campuses met their individual goals, according to the report. As a result, UW undergraduates decreased the time they took to finish their degrees between 1993-94 and 2000-01.

The proportion of graduates who completed their degrees in four years increased from 21 percent to 33 percent during this time period. And 60.5 percent of UW freshmen who started in 1995 graduated in six years, the highest rate ever in the UW System.

Overall, UW System graduation rates have increased substantially in the past 20 years, including the four-year, five-year and six-year rates. The biggest gain is in students who graduated after five years, the report says.

The report also indicates that student retention rates have steadily increased since the late 1970s. This rate is an important measure as well, because most students who drop out of college do so during their first year. By raising retention rates, the UW System has increased the pool of potential graduates and helped make campuses more efficient, the report says.

UW System graduation and retention rates exceed national figures by as much as five percentage points, according to OPAR’s report.

The report is part of the board’s ongoing examination of issues related to the quality of the undergraduate experience in the UW System. The board will discuss this topic at 10:30 a.m. May 9 at UW-Fox Valley in Menasha. The board will meet May 10 at UW-Fond du Lac. Both institutions are two-year campuses of the UW Colleges.

Reports are available on the UW System Reports & Statistics site.

Media Contact

Erik Christianson UW System 608-262-5061