Record graduation rates a work in progress, UA says

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University of Arkansas officials today released some record statistics that faculty and administrators are hoping will continue to be broken in the coming years.

The group of students who entered the UA in fall 2010 as first-time freshmen had a six-year graduation rate of 64.5 percent – a two-point increase over the previous group, and up more than four points from those entering in 2006.

The same group had record-setting four-year and five-year graduation rates of 42.3 percent and 60.6 percent, respectively.

Higher education officials and ratings services use the six-year graduation rate as an indication of the quality of a college or university, according to the UA.

“The university identified the graduation rate as a problem several years ago – and a problem we could correct,” said UA Chancellor Joe Steinmetz. “We began putting programs and student services in place to help students achieve their academic goals, and obviously these are paying off. This is a work in progress, however, and these rates can be, and need to be, much higher.”

UA researchers said several factors contribute to increased graduation rates, including where students live during their first year of college. For example, students who lived in on-campus student housing for at least their freshman year had a 67 percent six-year graduation rate, while students living off campus had a rate of 48 percent.

Financial aid is another major factor, the school said. Records show that 71 percent of students who did not need financial aid graduated within six years, compared to the 46 percent of six-year graduates who had the most need-based financial aid.

School officials hope to use the statistics to convince the UA Board of Trustees to approve construction of two new residence halls, and to raise more scholarship money through the school’s Campaign Arkansas program.

More information on graduation and retention rates is available at the Office of Institutional Research and Assessment website.