In May 2011, the university set a goal to graduate 70 percent of students within four years by 2017. Since then the four-year graduation rate has climbed to 57.7 percent in 2015, the highest on record and an increase in 7.1 percentage points since 2011.
As the university awaits the final fall enrollment numbers, when the four-year graduation rate for the class of 2016 is calculated, the Student Success Initiatives (SSI) team continues to make sure the rate keeps going up.
Here are some of the major accomplishments from the SSI team over the past year that have contributed to the rising four-year graduation rates.
University Leadership Network (ULN) Raises Money for Scholarships.
The SSI team conducted a crowdfunding campaign, called HornRaiser, in fall of 2015 to raise money for ULN scholarships. The team raised $76,985 - 192% of the goal! The David Nathan Meyerson Foundation set the pace and made the first leadership gift in the campaign.
ULN welcomed the first cohort of Jones Scholars this year. Around 125 Houston-area students are supported by the Jones-ULN Scholarships, which are generously provided by the Houston Endowment. A second cohort of 125 Jones Scholars will enroll in the fall of 2016, and a third cohort arrives in the fall of 2017.
The Medallion Foundation in Houston gave two full University Leadership Network scholarships to support two students enrolling at UT Austin from high schools surrounding their business location (Manchester Terminal, LLC.) beginning in the fall of 2016.
Senior Countdown Finds Early Success in First Year.
This program launched in April of 2015 with the goal of incentivizing current students to commit to graduating on-time. For the Class of 2016, a total of 5,223 signed up - that’s 65% of the entire class.
Senior Countdown provides students with guaranteed access to classes they need to graduate, priority access to the Graduation Help Desk, alumni networking and career coaching events, and a special class gift.
Students who signed up for Senior Countdown and graduated on-time received vehicle emblems with the Class of 2016 logo, or Class of 2015 branded phone chargers for those that graduated in less than four years. There were 190 students who graduated in less than four years.
Senior Countdown has proven to be an early success, and staff are already preparing to sign-up the next class.
Presidential Scholars Continues to Grow.
Currently, the total number of Presidential Scholars on campus (Class of 2017 - Class of 2020) is 1,610. The Class of 2020 Presidential Scholars is the largest cohort – 431 total and it is 60% female, the highest percent ever in a cohort.
Two major events were hosted for the scholars this year, the Fall 2015 Presidential Scholars Welcome Reception, and the end-of-year Presidential Scholars 2016 Reception which featured President Fenves as the keynote speaker. The receptions provided scholars the chance to learn more about their scholarship, visit with representatives from the Undergraduate Research and Study Abroad Offices, and learn about future enrichment experiences and the Individual Opportunity Scholarship that can be applied towards such experiences.
135 Individual Opportunity Scholarships worth $1,500 each were awarded during the calendar year.
Graduation Help Desk Helping Seniors Graduate.
The Graduation Help Desk was created in April of 2014 to assist students in getting the classes they need to graduate. Since it was created, this service has helped 265 students. Over 50 percent of all cases came from seniors, showing the strong use by students late in their undergraduate career who need help graduating on time.
Many times, staff were able to help a student solve the problem directly, but 31 percent of all cases involved the help desk advocating on the student’s behalf.
This summer the Graduation Help Desk will be rebranded and combined with ITS, Admissions, and Financial Aid to become the UT Service Desk. The full launch, providing a one-stop shop of tier-one service, is expected this fall.
Seats Reserved for Freshman in Key Classes.
The SSI team worked with departments across campus to reserve more than 8,000 seats for freshmen in strategic classes, eliminating waitlists and guaranteeing that students get into the classes they need to move towards finishing their degree.
The SSI team also helped improve the way students register for classes during freshman orientation. Students will now only register during the session they are on campus, providing more personalized guidance.
Two New College-Specific Student Success Programs Introduced.
The SSI team helped create new small academic communities for freshmen admitted to the McCombs School of Business and Cockrell School of Engineering. The objective is to provide a supportive environment to help ensure student success as students navigate their first year of college. The new programs are:
- McCombs Success Scholars
- Ramshorn Scholars (Cockrell School of Engineering)
New Student Portal Introduced at Orientation - MyUT.
Launching this summer, the new MyUT portal has been a huge project for the SSI team over the past year. MyUT is a web based system for students that will facilitate interaction with UT Austin from their first contact to their alumni status. It is a UT Austin-branded customized experience that is optimized for mobile devices, personalized to each student and socially engaging. It is the evolution of UT Direct.
MyUT, as an aggregator of information, will serve to incorporate application-specific portlets from current systems including the Registrar and Financial Aid systems.
MyUT version 1 is being initially rolled out with incoming students during the current summer orientation sessions.