College Completion Recommendations Will Help Students Across Texas and the Nation

University of Texas at Austin officials praised a series of recommendations for increasing college completion rates released this week by the national Commission on Higher Education Attainment. Many of the recommendations mirror efforts already under way at UT Austin while others will provide additional direction for campus efforts.

University President Bill Powers will host the chair of the national commission, Ohio State University President Gordon Gee, in Austin for a panel discussion on college completion and the recommendations on Feb.  11.  St. Edwards University President George Martin and University of Texas at El Paso President Diana Natalicio will also participate.

"Graduating on time makes a profound difference in the lives of students as well as their parents and communities," said Powers, who is also vice chair of the Association of American Universities. "These national recommendations offer a blueprint for community colleges, public research universities and every other pocket of the higher ed ecosystem. They have the potential to change our state and the country for the better."

When students graduate on time, they begin their careers or graduate school sooner and incur less debt. Their parents save money on tuition, and the nation benefits from a well-educated citizenry that is prepared for an increasingly sophisticated workforce.

UT Austin has the highest four-year graduation rate than at any other public college or university in Texas, about 52 percent, and is implementing a plan to increase that to 70 percent by 2016. Last spring, the university worked toward overhauling freshman orientation to help students develop a road map to graduate on time and, in the coming weeks, plans to make a major announcement about using discretionary financial aid more effectively to promote four-year graduation. Other initiatives, such as college readiness, data-driven analytics and modernizing the university's degree pathways, are also among the strategic areas aimed to increase graduation rates.

"Part of my job as graduation champion is to ensure students have the tools and resources they need to behave in ways that are consistent with four-year graduation," said David Laude, senior vice provost for enrollment and graduation management at The University of Texas at Austin. "We are continuously looking for innovative approaches to help our students excel academically and in a timely fashion, and I find the recommendations promoted by the report to be right in line with what I aspire to make happen at UT Austin."

The university also expects to receive recommendations from a panel of private-sector experts on improving efficiency to save money on campus  one of the key pillars of the national Commission on Higher Education Attainment's recommendations released this week. The other pillars include making better use of data and changing campus culture to boost student success. The commission also cited a UT Austin study on increasing graduation rates that was issued last year.

The national Commission on Higher Education Attainment was created in 2011 in response to a White House call to increase college completion rates and restore the nation's higher education preeminence. It includes representatives from two-year, four-year, public and private institutions from the American Council on Education, the American Association of Community Colleges, the American Association of State Colleges and Universities, and the Association of American Universities.