At a time when reports show that six in 10 students who enroll in a U.S. college will not have earned a degree six years later, UNC Charlotte is embracing the challenge to increase timely degree completion for enrolled students. UNC Charlotte is recognized as a national leader in this effort to develop comprehensive programs to increase student retention and graduation rates by the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities (APLU); the organization named the University the winner of its 2019 Degree Completion Award.
Through a student-centered approach, UNC Charlotte has improved its four-year graduation rate by 17 percentage points and consequently has seen a 5 percent decline in student debt upon graduation.
“We recognize the importance of a college degree to the jobs of the future and want every student to finish what they start. As a public university committed to access and equity, we also want to do our part to lessen the student debt burden by ensuring our University’s processes do not impede students from moving toward timely completion of their degrees,” said Joan Lorden, provost and vice chancellor of Academic Affairs.
UNC Charlotte launched a three-pronged approach in 2011 to improve student success rates. The 49er Graduation Initiative helps students select the right major and supports them as they progress through their course of study. Through the University’s Prospect for Success curriculum, more than 90 percent of incoming first-time college students take a semester-long academic engagement class that strengthens their commitment and ability to succeed as a college student. The University also redesigned its advising system to be more proactive. Finally, the University called on all academic departments to examine their majors to reduce barriers to progression and graduation.
“We applaud UNC Charlotte for its exemplary work to advance student success, equity and degree completion,” said APLU President Peter McPherson. “Perhaps most important of all, UNC Charlotte has implemented a continuous improvement process to build on these gains. Their investment in student-centered transformation has produced sizeable gains across all student subgroups in retention and graduation rates. We’re thrilled to spotlight their team’s work so other institutions can learn from it.”
The Degree Completion Award is one part of APLU’s work to advance college access, equity and completion. UNC Charlotte is one of 130 institutions working in the association’s Powered by Publics effort, which convenes collaborating institutions within 16 transformation clusters working to solve different pieces of the student success puzzle. Collectively, the schools have pledged to aim to increase college access, eliminate the achievement gap, and award hundreds of thousands more degrees by 2025. UNC Charlotte is focusing its efforts on transfer student success for this initiative.