USM Six-Year Graduation Rates for First-Time, Full-Time Freshman Are at an All-Time High

Students of Diverse Racial and Economic Backgrounds Contribute to Improved Results

Adelphi, Md. (March 10, 2016) -- Six-year graduation rates for first-time, full-time freshmen at University System of Maryland (USM) institutions are at an all-time high. A report presented recently to the USM Board of Regents Committee on Education Policy and Student Life (EPSL) documented that the USM is producing nearly seven graduates for every 10 entering freshmen.

The graduation rates were determined from tracking students who entered in fall 2009 and are part of a study of broader USM undergraduate enrollment trends. The report, titled an "Overview of Undergraduate Enrollment, Persistence and Success at the University System of Maryland," showed strong results in other measurement classifications.

For instance, of the Maryland community college transfers who enrolled in the USM during fiscal year 2012, 55 percent graduated within four years.

Additionally, the USM continues to be successful in closing the achievement gap. The fall 2009 cohort was the first cohort that entered the USM after the USM Closing the Achievement Gap initiative began. The cohort was the USM's third largest and the last one admitted during the enrollment funding initiative. Although the size of the cohort increased, graduation rates were not negatively impacted.

Overall, the USM's emphasis on closing achievement gaps and increasing student success has positively affected graduation performance.

"Attaining an all-time high in 6-year graduation rates is an important milestone for the University System of Maryland and it is critical to meeting the state goal for the total number of graduates by 2025," said USM Chancellor Robert L. Caret. "Our hard work in this area will continue. Maintaining sound strategies in retention efforts and our partnerships with community colleges allows the USM to build on the value it is bringing to Maryland citizens."

JoAnn Boughman, USM senior vice chancellor for academic affairs, cited several coordinated strategies among academic leaders at each campus that have translated into successful retention and graduation results.

"The USM and its constituent institutions have been focusing ever more resources and energy to student success, including retention and graduation.  As our efficiency and effectiveness goals are being embraced by the academic community, we are seeing improvements in advising, and teaching, using both innovation and data analytics to help us recognize student challenges," Boughman said.  

"When the obstacles to a student's success are recognized early, interventions and support can be offered to keep students on track to succeed.  The many interventions continue to demonstrate improved success rates, shorter times to degrees, and closing of achievement gaps.  We have much work remaining, but we are confident we will continue to make progress toward our USM and statewide goals in higher education."

The report identifies several important trends:

All-Time Highs in Graduation Rates: The fall 2009 cohort consisted of 12,643 first-time, full-time freshmen. The six-year graduation rate for this group is 65 percent when measured for the USM campus that student originally entered. The graduation rate is 69 percent when that measure is expanded to "anywhere within the USM." Both figures are historic highs for the system.

Since nearly half of the students in the 2009 cohort came from the University of Maryland, College Park (UMCP) and Towson University, the strong graduation rates at both campuses have played a significant role in driving USM's strong performance.

Demographic Diversity, Including Low-Income Students: The USM experienced greater demographic diversity among first-time, full-time freshmen. The most recent, fall 2015 freshman cohort was approximately 6.8 percent, nearly a 100% increase for this population compared to 10 years earlier (fall 2005). The 2015 freshman cohort was comprised of 3,235 African-American students, or 26 percent of the group, a 2 percent increase from last year. With increases in low-income students (27 percent Pell Grant-eligible, an increase of 7 percent from 2005) the USM freshman cohort is more diverse than ever. Moreover, it includes a growing proportion of low income students.

Closing the Achievement Gap: The 49 percent graduation rate of African-American students who completed their degree anywhere within the USM was on-par with a USM all-time high of 50 percent. Hispanic students who graduated anywhere within the USM tied the all-time high rate of 71 percent. Finally, the percentage of Pell Grant students graduating anywhere within the USM increased four points from last year and tied the historic high of 55 percent.

The collective improvement among these diverse populations made a positive impact on USM graduation rates overall. Further, it is quite probable this success will continue, given that the 4-year and 5-year graduation rates for the 2010 and 2011 cohorts (leading indicators of future 6-year graduation rates) have also increased.

The "Overview of Undergraduate Enrollment, Persistence and Success at the University System of Maryland" report can be found here (Item 2).


Contact: Mike Lurie
Phone: 301.445.2719