September 20, 2017
Dear UT Community,
In 2011, UT President Bill Powers set an ambitious goal — that 70 percent of undergraduate students would earn their degrees in four years or less by 2017. At the time, UT’s four-year graduation rate was 51 percent. The goal was important and the challenge was significant, but our entire community — faculty, staff, administrators, and most importantly, students and families — rallied behind our commitment to student success.
Well, it’s 2017 and the numbers have been calculated. We almost hit the mark. Today, nearly 66 percent of UT undergraduate students earn degrees in four years or less. UT now leads Texas public universities in graduation success. We are on pace to reach the 70 percent benchmark soon, which is comparable to the graduation rates of top-ranked peer universities. Furthermore, over 82 percent of UT students now graduate within six years of enrolling.
UT has also significantly closed the persistence gaps among our students — across socioeconomic categories, races and ethnicities and first-generation college students.
Improving the four-year graduation rate means that the cost of higher education has been reduced for thousands of students and their families. It means that undergraduates, who in the past would have dropped out or lagged behind, are now finding a clearer path to a degree and the substantial benefits of a UT education.
Today, more UT students are graduating on time, which has opened additional space for incoming classes. UT is now enrolling 1,000 more freshmen per year than in 2011 and — this is important — without the overall enrollment of the university increasing.
I thank all of those at UT who have committed themselves to fostering student success. In particular, I want to recognize the programs that embody our efforts, especially the University Leadership Network, which graduated its first class this past spring. ULN has empowered students through mentorship, internships and outreach and become a national model.
As I discussed last week in my State of the University address, we will continue to build upon our success in increasing graduation rates — and we will go even further.
Success certainly includes earning a degree in four years, but it also includes preparing students for life after graduation. We will continue to enhance our efforts by increasing experiential learning opportunities in curricula, providing college-to-career mentoring and improving access through financial aid. In these ways, we will truly serve the state and nation as an engine of upward mobility for students of all backgrounds.
Thank you for your continued commitment to achieving our mission and for making UT a university of the first class.
Gregory L. Fenves