Last year's freshman class at The University of Texas at Austin returned to campus at higher rates, earned better grades and took and passed more credit hours than any other class on record.
The Class of 2017, now beginning its sophomore year, was the first group of students to benefit from campuswide initiatives designed to increase four-year graduation rates. These included programs that identify at-risk students and provide them with resources to succeed.
The preliminary results show that the university is making progress toward President Bill Powers' goal of increasing the four-graduation rate to 70 percent within five years. Success during their freshman year is often a powerful indicator about success and completion levels throughout students' college careers.
"Once students arrive on campus, it is our goal to give them the skills and resources they need to succeed," said Gregory L. Fenves, executive vice president and provost. "This data tells us that our new programs are helping many students overcome the variety of challenges they face as they begin their college education."
In the Class of 2014 (last year's seniors), 55.1 percent of students graduated in four years, up from 52 percent a year earlier, though those students were not directly targeted by the new student success initiatives.
These preliminary enrollment numbers, based on the 12th class day of the 2014 fall semester, are compiled by the university's Institutional Reporting, Research and Information Systems (IRRIS) Office. Final numbers will be published in October. Additional data shared here not included in the 12th class day report is also provided by IRRIS.
- For the Class of 2017, 94.6 percent of the students returned for their sophomore year, up from 93.6 percent last year, resulting in the highest one-year retention rate in the university's history for returning freshmen.
- The Class of 2017 earned an average cumulative GPA of 3.28 during its freshman year, up from 3.22 for the previous class.
- Additionally, the students enrolled in and passed more semester credit hours during their initial fall semester (average 12.82 hours passed) and following spring semester (average 13.32 hours passed) than any entering class in the past five years. Taking more credit hours each semester will help these students stay on track to graduate in four years.
According to preliminary 12th day class numbers for fall 2014, the Class of 2018 (incoming freshmen) has 7,295 students, close to the target for class size, and total university enrollment is 51,341. The freshman class also enters with higher test scores than any other on record: an average SAT of 1872 (math, reading and writing), up 30 points from last year; and an average ACT composite score of 29, up one point from 2013.
This class will benefit from the same programs that have aided last year's freshmen and sophomores.
"We celebrate the successes that our many new initiatives have generated. This progress has only been possible due to the hard work and dedication of our students," said David Laude, senior vice provost for enrollment management, who is charged with improving four-year graduation rates. "We also recognize that there is still work to be done for improvement in all areas."
Data on student enrollment and retention released this week also indicate that total enrollment of underrepresented minorities at the university remained relatively unchanged. The total proportional representation of minority students (Hispanic and black) is up 6.7 percentage points compared with 10 years ago.