One of our top goals is to make sure that our undergraduates successfully finish their degrees, and do so in a timely fashion. Those who take more than four years to complete often take on additional student debt. Nationally, students who start a degree but never finish are a primary reason why student loan defaults are so high — students end up with the debt but without any credential.
UW-Madison students continue to improve on these measures.
Our May 2017 graduation rate is 62 percent for students who entered as freshmen in 2013. That may not seem as high as it should be, and we continue to work on further progress, but realize that most students finish in just over eight semesters.
The average time to graduation is 4.03 elapsed calendar years, a number that has fallen significantly in recent years. That’s basically eight semesters plus one final summer.
The six-year graduation rate of 87 percent for students entering in Fall 2011 is up from 85 percent reported last year and compares well with our peer schools. (If we counted graduation among all students entering UW-Madison in fall 2011, regardless of whether they graduated here or elsewhere, our six-year graduation rate is over 90 percent.)
This is the number most schools report and it’s the highest graduation rate on record at UW-Madison.
In other good news, our undergraduate retention rate (freshmen returning for sophomore year) remains high at 95 percent, one of the best retention rates among public universities.
The freshman-sophomore retention rate for targeted minority students of 94 percent is a bit lower than the 96 percent we saw last year, but basically the same as among non-minority students.
The six-year graduation rate for targeted minority students is up five percentage points over last year, to 80 percent. Time to degree for targeted minority students is 4.29 elapsed years, and has fallen significantly in recent years.
Helping students earn a degree in less time means that they can start their post-college lives with less debt. I am proud of the fact that more than half of our undergraduates graduate without student debt — compared to less than one-third of undergraduates nationally. Also, our grads have a loan default rate that is significantly below the national average (the three-year default rate on federal Stafford loans is 1.2 percent for UW–Madison students, 11.3 percent nationally).
I’m particularly proud that we’ve made significant improvements in graduation and retention rates, and greatly lowered the gap between minority and non-minority students at a time when we were struggling with budget cuts. These numbers are a testament to the focused and effective efforts of our faculty, student services and advising staff members, as well as our housing and facilities staff and many others. Thanks to everyone who helps make this a great place to live and learn.