Administration aims to boost UO’s low four-year graduation rate

The four-year graduation rate at the University of Oregon falls significantly below the national average.

Only 50 percent of UO undergraduates complete a degree within four years, according to data collected by the Office of the Registrar, putting the university’s rate roughly 10 percentage points under the national average calculated by the National Center for Education Statistics.

But the Academic and Student Affairs Committee, headed by the Office of the Provost, plans to meet the national average of 60 percent by 2020.

During September’s Board of Trustees meetings, the committee outlined the Student Success Initiative. The initiative aims to decrease the time it takes students to graduate and the percent of students that leave UO without a degree, which is roughly 30 percent.

“As we know, the cost of attending a university is increasing,” said associate vice provost for student success Doneka Scott. “We believe that every student admitted to the University of Oregon can and will graduate with a degree in a timely fashion.”

According to a letter to faculty and staff written by Provost Scott Coltrane, the Student Success Initiative was allocated $17 million when President Michael Schill first announced it in November 2015. A portion of those funds has recently gone to creating a team of three administrators who will head the initiative.

Scott will work specifically on decreasing the time it takes students to earn their degrees, while associate vice provost for academic excellence Ron Bramhall will work to decrease the number of students who leave the university without a degree. Vice provost for undergraduate studies Lisa Freinkel will oversee many of the offices involved.

Scott said some initial goals are to coordinate academic advising efforts across the university and align degree requirements so that students have a clear understanding of what it takes to finish in four years. There may also be changes in the requirements themselves.

“It has become increasingly clear that achieving our student success goals will require significant work at the curricular level in departments, schools and colleges,” Coltrane wrote in his letter. “One important piece of that reform — especially in light of the work of the Black Student Task Force — is tied to changing our multicultural studies graduation requirement.”

According to materials presented at the Board of Trustees meeting, the initiative’s leadership team may also work with faculty to improve advising and student performance in major requirement courses with high percentages of D’s, F’s, ‘Ws’ and ‘No Passes.’ One example is Math 241, a requirement for UO’s most popular major, Pre-Business Administration, which has a poor performance rate of 30 percent.

Scott said UO will also work to increase students’ sense of belonging — a non-academic indicator of potential for four-year graduation.

For underrepresented populations, graduation rates consistently lag behind UO’s 50 percent. For example, approximately 19 percent of UO’s Black students graduate within four years, according to the Office of the Registrar. Part of the initiative aims to close that gap by increasing early advising for at-risk students.

Scott said changes will begin to take effect this fall, and many will be targeted at incoming freshmen.

“These initiatives will have a positive effect on all of our students,” Scott said. “We’re starting there but we’re not ending there.”

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Emily Olson

Emily Olson

Emily Olson is an associate news editor at the Emerald. She likes coffee.