UT recognized for increase in graduation rates, award finalist

Jenan Taha

UT has been recognized as having one of the nation’s leading initiatives to improve student graduation rates after increasing degree completion by 10 percent over four years.

The University is a finalist for the 2017 Project Degree Completion Award, which is awarded by the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities to institutions who work to improve student success rates.

Senior vice provost David Laude said hundreds of people across the University have worked together in the past five years to help students graduate on time.

“Being able to win this award provides a signature that all of this hard work was worthwhile,” Laude said. “When a university works together with a common purpose ­­­­—  the success of the students — then it’s a validation of the fact that we’ve been successful, that that kind of hard work actually pays off.”

UT experienced its greatest recorded increase in graduation rates from 51 percent in 2012 to 61 percent in 2016. Laude said the increase is a result of the wide range of options now available to help students complete their degrees, including organizations, such as Student Success Initiatives and the Graduation Help Desk which offer advising, aid and other assistance.

“If even one student isn’t able to complete (school) because they fell through the cracks, then we feel like it’s our responsibility to do something about it,” Laude said.

Travis York, APLUs director of student success, research and policy, said UT was chosen as a finalist for its success in tackling a diverse set of issues students may face in college.

“We’re always looking for institutions that are trying to reach multiple students in multiple ways,” York said. “To see such a huge increase in degree completion, that’s one reason why UT-Austin really shined.”

York said universities recognized with this award serve as a model for others in the nation and encourage more institutions to improve their graduation rates.

President Gregory Fenves said graduation is an important goal and the efforts to improve the University’s graduation rate have proved successful.

“Because of the University’s student success initiatives, record numbers of students from all backgrounds are graduating from UT on time and realizing their potential,” Fenves said in a press release.

The winner of the award will be announced at APLU’s annual meeting held from Nov. 12 to 14.