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UW System accountability report shows progress - More students are completing degrees, and taking fewer credits to do so (Apr 4, 2008)

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April 4, 2008

UW System accountability report shows progress

More students are completing degrees, and taking fewer credits to do so

MADISON, Wis. — The University of Wisconsin System met or partially met 19 of its 20 goals last year, according to its annual accountability report, Achieving Excellence. The new report will be presented by UW System President Kevin P. Reilly to the Board of Regents on Thursday.

Achieving Excellence provides objective data that illustrate the challenges faced by our institutions and areas in which we have made meaningful progress,” said Reilly. “This is valuable information for university leaders, students, lawmakers, and taxpayers alike.”

The report shows that graduation rates at UW System campuses reached an average of 64.8 percent. That is nearly four percentage points higher than the current national average, and eight points higher than the UW System’s average from 10 years ago. 

While the UW System’s goal of retaining 82 percent of first-year students to the second year was not achieved, the current retention rate of 79 percent is still 1.5 percentage points higher than the national average.

The typical UW System undergraduate student now takes fewer course credits on her or his path toward a bachelor’s degree. Last year’s average stands at 134 credits, down from 145 in 1994.

“Together, these are important measures of overall productivity and efficiency within our public university,” said Rebecca Martin, the UW System’s senior vice president for academic affairs. “When students stay on track and achieve their degree with fewer credits, they reduce their own expenses and open up more classroom seats for others. This shows that we’re helping the state’s educational pipeline run more smoothly.”

In national surveys, UW seniors give campuses high marks for providing a solid educational experience, including efforts to foster critical thinking, learning experiences outside the classroom, faculty mentoring, and activities that promote citizenship.

Data show that UW graduates continue to outperform other states on standardized tests required for graduate studies, medical school admission or professional certification.

The report shows that the UW System can do more to attract and support students of color and those from low-income households. Data indicate that students of color in the UW System enroll and graduate at rates lower than white student peers. Students receiving Pell Grants make up a smaller share of UW System undergraduates compared to the national average for four-year public universities. 

“To help Wisconsin compete more successfully in a global economy, we must enroll and graduate a broader, deeper cut of the population,” said Reilly. “By making meaningful strides in this area, we can increase the academic success of our students and help the state achieve its economic goals. Our Board of Regents has focused intensely on this area, and that conversation will continue at next week’s meeting.”

After next week’s Board meeting, Reilly will hold a briefing and discussion on the accountability report at the state capitol for legislators and their staff.

“I’d like to get a sense from our elected leaders whether this current system is meeting their needs for information about the university’s accomplishments and challenges,” said Reilly. “Also, I’d like their advice on how we might improve it to better track the UW System’s efforts to address key expectations that Wisconsin citizens have for their university.”

Achieving Excellence represents the UW System’s longtime commitment to broad-based accountability. First published in 1993, the publication took its current form in1999, presenting the UW System’s progress related to specific student and institutional outcomes, as well as efforts to promote positive learning environments.

The report addresses progress in six main areas:

  • Access to the UW
  • Student persistence and degree completion
  • Learning competencies
  • Preparing students for a dynamic world community
  • Opportunities and student services that enhance learning environments
  • Efficient and effective stewardship of resources. 

To view the 2007-08 UW System Accountability Report, Achieving Excellence, visit www.uwsa.edu/opar/accountability.  For more information about the UW System and next week’s meeting of the Board of Regents, see www.wisconsin.edu.

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Media Contact:
David F. Giroux
UW System
dgiroux@uwsa.edu
608-262-4464 (office)