Undergraduate students in this year's freshman class at The University of Texas at Austin are showing performance gains compared with freshman cohorts in past years, including a 98.5 percent retention rate from fall to spring semester, which is higher than any freshman cohort in the past five years.
The gains are notable given the university's efforts to boost its four-year graduation rate, despite having a larger than expected freshman class. The Class of 2016, which began with 8,092 students this past fall, has not only posted lower failure rates for the fall semester, but also has experienced the highest retention rate from fall to spring semester of any freshman cohort in the past five years.
"Clearly, the first measure of student success is whether they return after their first semester, and these numbers are very encouraging. We'll continue to track their success rate from each step on their journey to the next. By being strategic and diligent in our work, I'm confident we'll reach our graduation-rate goal," said University of Texas at Austin President Bill Powers.
Class of 2016 fall semester successes include:
- Of all first-time-in college freshmen in fall 2012, only 126, or 1.5 percent, did not come back for the spring term, resulting in a retention rate of 98.5 percent the highest retention rate from fall to spring semester of any freshman cohort during the past five years.
- The fall semester failure rate for the Class of 2016 is almost half of what it was in 2009. And, on average, these students are taking more hours than in the past five years.
- Additionally, a recent trend analysis shows that during the past five years, grades of first-year students in their first semester are improving.
"Early indications of student success, especially with this cohort, are important in our goal to increase four-year graduation rates," said David Laude, senior vice provost of enrollment and graduation management. "If we can keep these students on track and continue to provide the resources they need to be successful, we're headed down the right path."
UT Austin has the highest four-year graduation rate of all public colleges and universities 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 has announced 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.