As universities continue to aim to increase four-year graduation rates, some are recommending looking to UT as an example.
In an open letter to college and university leaders from the National Commission on Higher Education Attainment, E. Gordon Gee, president of Ohio State University, said graduating on time is essential for the country’s success.
“The number of Americans attending college is at a historic high, but far too many never make it to graduation ... Left unaddressed, it will hinder social mobility and impede the nation’s economic progress,” Gee’s letter said.
The letter details three main hindrances that, if remedied, seem to be the key to increasing graduation rates: changing campus culture, improving cost effectiveness and making better use of data. The letter cites UT as an example of successfully implementing the first two goals.
“The University of Texas at Austin is perhaps the best example of an institution that conducted a far-reaching study of how to overcome long-standing obstacles to improving retention and graduation rates,” the letter said.
In order to improve cost-effectiveness, the letter suggests narrowing student choice to encourage completion, among other possibilities.
“The University of Texas at Austin recommended eliminating simultaneous majors unless the student can demonstrate that having a simultaneous major will not delay degree completion,” the letter said.
The four-year graduation rate at UT was 51.4 percent in 2011, according to a report by the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board. UT President William Powers Jr. recently set a goal of a 70 percent four-year graduation rate by 2016.
According to the letter, a few ways that the final issue of making better use of data can be improved is by using information technology to communicate with students about progress to graduation and to identify at-risk students.
“Using testing data to identify high school students who need to improve their academic preparation is another promising retention strategy,” the letter said.
According to a press release, Gee will meet with Powers on Feb. 11 in Austin for a panel discussion regarding the recommendations in this letter.