As graduation rates improve, UT sees largest incoming class yet

FILE - UT Austin Tower

AUSTIN (KXAN) — The class of 2022 at the University of Texas at Austin is the largest in the university’s history, UT confirmed Wednesday. The university attributes this large incoming class to improving 4-year graduation rates, which allow more students to be admitted, as graduating students are shuffled out. 

The class of 2022 at UT has 8,960 first-time, first-year students. UT, like many universities, has been pushing for better four-year graduation rates.

Improving the rate of students who graduate on time makes more room for incoming students, UT explained. The university also believes some of this increase in graduation rates can be attributed to the new programs they’ve worked on to simplify degree plans for students and analyze student data. In particular, the university believes the new Student Success Initiatives have worked in helping students map out their time in college and their plans for after graduation.

UT says the class that graduated in 2018 set a record for UT’s 4-year graduation rate: 69.8 percent, which falls just short of the goal UT set in 2012 to boost graduation rates to 70 percent by 2017. 

Each fall, once classes have started, UT crunches the numbers of the students who make up the 40 Acres. Last year the rate of students graduating in four years was 65.7 percent, which was an increase from the 51 percent rate the school saw in 2012.  

In the 2018 numbers, UT also noted an increase in graduation rates for first-generation college students (61.5 percent in 2018, up from 40.9 percent in 2012) and for Pell Grant-eligible students (61 percent in 2018, up from 40.3 percent in 2012). 

The number of UT students who graduate within six years is 82.8 percent, 0.1 percent less than the previous year. In total, 51,832 students are enrolled in UT this year. 

UT also saw Hispanic undergraduate enrollment increase to 23.4 percent, up from 23 percent last year.

UT’s undergraduate enrollment for black students is 5 percent, up from 4.8 percent last year. While the number of black first-time freshmen students stayed the same at 5.4 percent, the number of Hispanic first-time freshmen declined to 24.1 percent, down from 24.6 percent last year. 

UT’s Executive Vice President and Provost Maurie McInnis explained that UT’s graduation rate this year is also the highest of any public university in the state. 

“For many years there was a culture on this campus that it was a lot of fun to be a student, so we had many students who weren’t as focused on getting a degree in four years, and so [we started] campus-wide conversations about why it matters to finish your degree in a timely fashion and to get on to the next stage of your life and career,” McInnis explained.  She noted that students who finish degrees faster often wind up with less debt and get into the workforce sooner. 

“It is something the students have really bought into and have worked hard to achieve,” she said of the improvement in graduation rates.  

“They’re the ones who’ve done the work,” McInnis said. 

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