UC Riverside Wins Prestigious Award for Student Success in Degree Completion

Recognition from APLU institutions cites UCR's graduation rate success

University of Kansas Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little, who is also immediate Past Chair of the APLU Board of Directors, presents the “Project Degree Completion Award” to UCR Provost Paul J. D’Anieri. Photo courtesy of Association of Public and Land-grant Universities

RIVERSIDE, Calif. (www.ucr.edu) — UC Riverside is one of a handful of comprehensive universities that have achieved near parity in graduation rates across racial, socio-economic, and gender boundaries. That success has now been recognized by the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities [APLU], which represents 236 public and land-grant institutions in the U.S., Mexico, and Canada.

UC Riverside won the 2016 “Project Degree Completion Award” for innovation in boosting graduation rates, the APLU announced at its annual meeting last weekend. UCR’s four-year graduation rates in 2015 reached 53 percent, and six-year graduation rates were 73 percent – up 11 percent and 7 percent, respectively, from four years earlier.

An independent panel of seven judges determined that UC Riverside was the winner after a thorough review and interview process.  The other finalists for the 2016 Project Degree Completion Award were: California State University, Fresno; Cleveland State University; Montana State University; and Wayne State University.

The award, which is made possible through the support of the Lumina Foundation and was open to all APLU member institutions, is also designed to share innovative practices with other public universities and encourage other institutions to draw from those successes.  It is one part of Project Degree Completion – a joint initiative that APLU and the American Association of State Colleges and Universities developed in which nearly 500 public colleges and universities have pledged to collectively award 3.8 million more bachelor’s degrees between 2012 and 2025.

“Public universities are undertaking extensive efforts to ensure that all students not only have access to higher education, but also complete their degrees and gain all the benefits that a degree confers,” said APLU President Peter McPherson. “An informed citizenry and skilled workforce requires broad-based investment in higher education and bolstered efforts to increase degree completion. UC Riverside’s comprehensive approach to improving degree completion puts it at the leading edge of those efforts.”

UCR convened a graduation rate task force in 2013 to improve its degree completion rates. In the 2011-12 school year, the four-year graduation rate at UC Riverside was 42 percent and the six-year graduation rate stood at 66 percent.

The task force set an ambitious goal to improve four- and six-year graduation rates by 15 percent for the class of 2021 and outlined 37 recommendations to achieve that goal. The recommendations included institutionalizing enrollment modeling, revamping of the introductory mathematics curriculum and instruction, and providing increased access to courses over the summer. UC Riverside also developed new tools for advisors to address the needs of students at risk for non-completion and implemented a campus-wide finish-in-four campaign to raise awareness about the importance of finishing a degree in a timely manner.

“As a large and diverse university that enrolls high proportions of low-income and under-represented minority students, UCR is profoundly dedicated to ensuring all our students succeed,” said Chancellor Kim A. Wilcox.  “The efforts of our task force have epitomized our commitment to improving graduation rates across the university and have been instrumental in establishing a culture of student success across our campus community.”

Provost Paul D’Anieri said, “This award results from a large number of faculty, staff, and students working hard over several years to achieve a shared goal. Our increase in 4-year graduation rates equates to over 500 students per year now getting degrees who would not have done so only a few years ago. The impact is immense.”

Ted Mitchell, the U.S. Under Secretary for Education in the Obama White House, brought his own message to UC Riverside personally on Oct. 14.

“I wish we could clone what is happening at UC Riverside and bring it to every college and university in the country,” he said. “You are showing the kinds of partnerships, the kinds of commitments that need to be made if we are going to reach President Obama’s goal, to have the kind of higher education system that supports a diverse democracy.”

Steve Brint, a sociologist who studies higher education, chaired UCR’s task force when he was the vice provost for Undergraduate Education.

“The analyses and recommendations of the task force set the groundwork for this award,” Brint said. “The task force focused on providing the right number and distribution of seats in classes, the creation of structured course plans, investment in academic support programs that work, and changing the three-courses per term norm among students. It is gratifying that we have been able to raise graduation rates so significantly, while maintaining near equivalency between groups. Our undergraduate students deserve a lot of the credit for stepping up to higher expectations. I am very proud of what we as a campus have accomplished together.”

A complete list of UCR’s Graduation Rate Task Force:

Steven Brint, Vice Provost, Undergraduate Education (chair)
Ward Beyermann, Associate Professor, Department of Physics
Robert Daly, Assistant Vice Chancellor, Strategic Academic Research and Analysis
Peter Graham, Associate Dean, Student Academic Affairs, College of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences
William Kidder, Assistant Executive Vice Chancellor
LaRae Lundgren, Associate Vice Chancellor, Enrollment Management
Kazi Mamun, Assistant Dean, School of Business Administration
Mindy Marks, Associate Professor, Department of Economics
Michael A. McKibben, Divisional Dean, Student Academic Affairs, College of Natural and Agricultural Sciences
Chinya Ravishankar, Associate Dean, Student Academic Affairs, Bourns College of Engineering


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