The average time-to-degree for bachelor degree recipients fell below four calendar years, the lowest since the university began actively tracking the number in the 1980s, according to the University of Wisconsin’s Office of Academic Planning and Institutional Research.
The time-to-degree measure takes into consideration all students who graduate in a given year, regardless of the year they started their undergraduate education, the office said on their website. Last year’s number fell to 3.96 calendar years, lower than four years for the first time.
The number for 2017-18 graduates was 4.01 elapsed calendar years and 4.03 for 2016-17 cohort, according to a release from UW communications.
“This is excellent news for Wisconsin families concerned about the cost of higher education,” UW Chancellor Rebecca Blank said in the release. “We know that students who take longer than four years often accrue additional debt. It is our goal that as many undergraduates as possible complete their program of studies in four years.”
According to the release, factors like motivated, hard-working students, driven faculty members and staff, enhanced academic advising services, expansion of summer term and the introduction of new online tools that facilitate course searching and enrollment all contribute to the lower measurement.
One such example is Guide, UW’s online academic catalog, which UW upgraded two years ago to help provide clear information on curricula and degree requirements for both students and academic advisors.
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UW has also put effort into developing career services, such as Handshake and SuccessWorks, to help students explore career options after graduation and stay on track to achieve them, according to the release.
“When students have good post-graduation options, they are more likely to stay focused and excited about completing their degrees,” Provost John Karl Scholz said in the release.
In addition to the lowest time-to-degree measurement, the four-year graduation rate for students who came to UW as freshmen four years ago rose from 66.9% last year to 69.3% this year, according to the release.
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With a freshman-to-sophomore retention rate of 95.2%, this year also marked the seventh consecutive year of the retention rate staying above 95%, UW News said.
“This has been a concerted, campus-wide effort over many years and involving many facets, tools and programs,” Scholz said. “It’s a group effort with everyone pulling in the same direction so that students have the resources they need to graduate — and to do so in a timely manner.”