University of Wisconsin System students earned a record number of degrees in the 2007-08 academic year, according to a report released by the UW System Office of Policy Analysis and Research Monday.
According to the report, the system awarded a total of 32,433 degrees, 400 more than the previous year. The system also issued the highest number of bachelor’s degrees in its history at 24,035.
“It means that not only are we enrolling record numbers of students, but we’re also producing record numbers of graduates,” UW System spokesperson David Giroux said. “I think that is a sign we’re not just increasing the input, were increasing the output, and that’s ultimately where we can make the difference.”
Giroux added he thinks the record increase must continue.
“To do anything else would be to let other states and nations take an even bigger lead,” Giroux said. “We’re on the right path right now, and we cannot afford to step off.”
Board of Regents Vice President Chuck Pruitt said the record number of degrees provides evidence the Growth Agenda, an initiative to produce more graduates and enhance the state economy, is working.
“We’ve been making the case to the state and to everybody that the more college-degree holders that the university system can produce, the better it will be for the state,” Pruitt said. “The new-world economy requires more and more people have college degrees, and we think that should be an important priority for the state.”
Noel Radomski, director of the Wisconsin Center for the Advancement of Postsecondary Education, said producing a record number of graduates is not necessarily the solution, and producing a huge amount of graduates could lead to problems. One, it does not necessarily mean those graduates will stay in Wisconsin. Secondly, having a large amount of graduates without increasing the amount of small and mid-sized businesses could decrease wages throughout the state.
“We need to stop looking at only our supply,” Radomski said. “That’s only half of the equation. They are wrong when they’re saying the more grads the better.”
Transfer Students Increasing
The total number of transfers topped out at 15,682 students. The report said the number of transfers varies from year to year, although the number has not been below 15,000 since 2000.
Radomski said there are two reasons for the increase in transfers: First, the cost of tuition and segregated fees has increased far above the rate of inflation and some students are choosing to attend two-year institutions first to save money. Second, it is becoming easier to get accepted as a sophomore or junior versus a freshman.
The amount of transfer students, according to Giroux, is holding steady. He also agreed with Radomski, saying the System is making it easier for students to transfer into the four-year campuses.
“Most people assume, incorrectly, that the university tries to make transferring hard,” Giroux said. “It’s not a simple process, but it’s not nearly as hard as people might think it is. I think most people have an outdated notion that the university is putting up barriers to transfer. We’re trying to smooth out that process and make that easier.”