A national report says MU has the highest six-year graduation rate of Missouri’s public universities.
The Education Trust issued the report in mid-January based on data compiled from the U.S. Department of Education’s Graduate Rate Survey. The six-year mark is the standard by which the Department of Education measures graduation statistics. Many students in the United States take more than four years to earn bachelor’s degrees because of internships and work experience.
The graduation rate statistic represents the percentage of first-time, full-time freshmen who earn a bachelor’s degree from the institution where they originally enrolled. The report tracks the freshman class that entered college in the fall of 1997 and graduated before Aug. 31, 2003.
MU has seen considerable increases in its graduation rates since 1995, when 56 percent of its students graduated. In 2000, the graduation rate was 60 percent, and the new report indicates that nearly 67 percent of MU students graduated within six years.
The next highest graduation rates in Missouri are from Truman State University and the University of Missouri-Rolla, both with graduation rates of about 60 percent.
Cathy Scroggs, vice chancellor for student affairs, said establishing an early bond between freshmen and MU is essential to keep students enrolled.
“The reason we have high graduation rates is because we engage students early, to get them connected to the university,” Scroggs said.
She emphasized programs offered through MU’s Department of Residential Life, such as Freshman Interest Groups and learning communities tailored to students’ interests and majors, as important anchors in getting first-year students off to a good start in college. Scroggs added that recognition and support for outstanding student achievement is another reason for MU’s high retention rate.
“We do a lot to recognize students who are excellent,” Scroggs said. She pointed to the Mizzou ’39 honor recently awarded to 39 MU seniors to honor their achievements and the upcoming Excellence Weekend in April that will recognize “unsung heroes” of MU.
Ann Korschgen, vice provost for enrollment management at MU, said the number of employees dedicated to undergraduate retention is one of the most important aspects of MU.
“There is more attention paid to the undergraduate learning experience at MU than at many other institutions,” Korschgen said.
Compared to other schools in the Big 12, MU has the fifth highest six-year graduation rate, behind Texas A&M, the University of Texas-Austin, Baylor University and the University of Colorado.
“We know we’re not perfect,” Korschgen said. “But we’re continuing to improve, and we’re pleased with how far we have come.”
Efforts to improve graduation rates encompass a variety of areas including making registration for classes more student-friendly, establishing traditions in which students can participate and keeping an adequate number of academic advisors on staff, Korschgen said.
She also said the heads of academic departments are constantly re-examining general education requirements to ensure students are passing and are having the most positive experiences possible.
The graduation rate for 2004 was 67.8 percent, already surpassing the rate for 2003, Korschgen said.
Korschgen expects these numbers will positively affect the perception potential students and parents have of the university.
“Parents are typically concerned about outcomes,” Korschgen said. “They want to know what it will mean for their student if they go to MU, and we can say that it is likely they will graduate.”
On Monday, MU Chancellor Brady Deaton said MU’s retention and graduation rates are improving at “a very remarkable rate.
“It’s easy to grow student numbers, but it’s a much bigger job to educate them with a quality education to prepare them for their role today and in the future,” Deaton said
For more information on the report, visit The Education Trust’s Web site at www.collegeresults.org.
Missourian reporter Sheena Martin contributed to this story.