UT graduation rates for 2020 hit record highs, with the four-year graduation rate at 72.2% and the six-year graduation rate at 87.6%, according to a Tuesday press release. These metrics increased from 69.8% and 85.6% in 2019 respectively.
The University credited the steady increase in graduation rates since 2011 to long-term efforts in student success and recruiting, according to the release. The release said success was especially notable among Black, Hispanic, first-generation and Pell Grant-eligible students.
Student Success Initiatives was started to improve 2012 graduation rates, when the four-year graduation rate was 52.5%.
Rachelle Hernandez, senior vice provost for enrollment management and student success, said Student Success Initiatives has collaborated with UT colleges and schools since 2013 to improve these numbers with the help of resources such as 360 Connections and the Graduation Help Desk.
“Students start at UT knowing there are dedicated structures in place that they can turn to for anything they might need, whether that’s the advice of a peer or help register for classes,” Hernandez said in an email.
For fall 2020, the number of Black undergraduates rose to 5.5%, setting a new record for the University. The number of Hispanic undergraduates also rose to 26.1%, qualifying the University for consideration as a Hispanic-Serving Institution, according to the press release.
“I’m especially gratified to see that Black and Hispanic students are choosing to come to UT in higher numbers than ever before,” President Jay Hartzell said in the press release. “These are encouraging signs — but there is clearly more work to do.”
The class of 2024 set three record highs, with the number of Black students at 6.1%, the number of Hispanic students at 28.6% and the number of first-generation students at 25.5%.
Psychology freshman Dania Turner said as a Black and first-generation college student, hearing about the record highs made her more hopeful about attending UT. Turner also said she thinks these numbers will encourage more minority students to apply to UT.
“It made me feel good knowing that people like me are being accepted into a prestigious and world class university like UT,” Turner said in a Twitter message. “It’s helping push the narrative that Black and first-gen students are just as capable as the majority (white and non-first-generation students) that goes to UT.”
Turner said she hopes Black students will eventually comprise at least 20% of the UT student population.
The University enrolled 8,459 students in its freshman class this year — one of its largest entering classes. UT has averaged 7,900 students in freshman classes the past decade.
UT received a record number of 57,241 applicants for the freshman fall class, according to the release. For the freshman classes entering 2017, 2018 and 2019, UT received 51,033, 50,575 and 53,525 applications respectively, according to UT’s Common Data Set Report from each year.
“Overall international enrollment dropped from 5,089 to 4,173, part of a national trend related to COVID-19 and travel restrictions,” the release said. “Despite having 916 fewer international students, overall university enrollment dropped by only 609 students, to 50,481, a decline of 1.2% from 2019.”
Editor’s note: This story has been updated to include comments from UT and student perspectives.