Graduates cheer during the 2017 Graduate School commencement at the University of Georgia. (Photo/ John Roark, Athens Banner-Herald)
A soon-to-be graduate from the University of Georgias Franklin College of Arts communications program stands outside the UGA Chapel on North Campus. (Photo/ John Roark, Athens Banner-Herald)
Students are graduating from the University of Georgia at record levels, the university reported this week.
Nearly two-thirds of entering freshmen come out four years later with undergraduate degrees, and about 85 percent have received a degree within six years of enrolling.
By comparison, the six-year graduation rate for Southeastern Conference schools is 71 percent. The rate also compares favorably to so-called peer and aspirational institutions, universities officially designated by the state Board of Regents as schools that are similar to UGA or schools at levels UGA aspires to reach.
UGAs peer schools had a six-year rate of 75 percent and aspirational schools were at 87 percent.
Four-year graduation rates are listed at 68 percent for aspirational schools, 52 percent for peers and 45 percent for schools within the SEC.
UGAs retention rate, the percent of freshmen who make it back for a second year, also reached a new high at 96 percent.
Thats slightly higher than even UGA aspirational institutions, which posted a 95 percent rate.
The new records come after several years and several new programs designed to boost the retention and graduation rates, which help earn UGA higher rankings in national surveys and also improve Georgias standing under a state funding formula that rewards schools with better graduation rates.
UGA has added 35 new academic advisers since 2015, for example, and last year launched a program to help guide undecided students toward majors.
Other steps have been to offer more summer online courses, and more sections, including courses students must take for particular majors. Some of those courses had been bottlenecks for students because they couldnt get into class.
Under one hiring initiative, UGA added 56 teachers in a move that was meant to reduce class sizes, which can affect student success positively.
UGAs 2017 summer school enrollment was a record 16,447, according to a UGA press release, and 28 percent enrolled online.
The university has also taken steps to beef up the number of needs-based scholarships available to students; financial hardship is a major reason students dont finish degrees on time.
UGA administrators also expect its new experiential learning requirement to boost student success rates. Students are now required to get some experience outside the normal classroom such as study abroad, internships or service learning.