Graduation Rates, Progress, and Attrition
The UW has an excellent graduation rate (81%) compared with public institutions across the U.S., yet we recognize that improving completion rates is valuable to both local and national economies, to families and individuals seeking knowledge and upward mobility, and to students who have been admitted to the UW. For this reason, we undertook a mixed methods study, interviewing campus stakeholders, administering student surveys, and analyzing student academic records. Our purpose was to learn which groups of students are more likely to leave the UW than others and why, and to identify strategies for intervening in future students’ decisions to leave. Regarding students who leave the UW before graduating, the study found: 1) the six-year graduation rates for Native American, African American, and Pacific Islander students lag behind those of students in other ethnic groups by up to thirteen percentage points; 2) students from all demographic groups who do not graduate have significantly lower first-year UW GPA s than students who graduate; and 3) Pell grant recipients and part-time students have significantly lower graduation rates than do others. Students’ reasons for leaving were multiple and complex, as were the reasons given by students who decided to stay. Most common were financial issues, dissatisfaction with the quality of the academic experience, depression and emotional distress, not doing well academically, social isolation, issues related to the major, and feeling unwelcome/ having a bad experience. Students who decided to stay reported a sense of being supported and the ability to wait out the hard times. The study’s focus was limited to the UW’s Seattle campus.
The 2006 UW Study of Attrition and Retention was conducted to clarify and deepen the university's understanding of why underrepresented minority students leave the University of Washington at higher rates than do other students. The study included analysis of academic, demographic, and financial data from university databases, as well as interviews and focus groups with students, faculty, and staff. A variety of interacting factors were identified as related to higher attrition rates, including campus climate; financial issues; differences between academic needs and family/community/cultural expectations or needs; pre-college and first-year academic experience; waiting/being embarrassed to ask for help; work-related issues; and not getting into one's major of choice. Of these, climate issues were most powerful.
Undergraduate Student Progress. L. Basson and G. Gillmore, OEA Report 97-1, 1997.
The purpose of this report is to present and synthesize the recent research that has been conducted at UW on student progress. The report begins with a description of the ways in which undergraduate progress has been measured. Then, previous research is categorized as that relating to demographic differences, student performance factors, student expectations and rationales, effects of program of study, and institutional and non-institutional reasons for extended times and inefficiency. The report concludes that more work is required to determine the relationship among various factors.
In this research note, the Graduation Efficiency Index (GEI) is defined and its limitations described. GEI averages are given for all departments across bachelor degree recipients from fall 1992 through spring 1995. These averages are listed for freshman and transfer entrants within B. A. and B. S. degrees.
Helping UW Students Graduate in a Timely Fashion. L. Basson, OEA Research Note N-96-7, 1996.
As part of their annual 1996 progress reports on end-of-program assessment, departments offering undergraduate majors at the UW were asked to comment on what steps they were taking to improve time to degree for their majors. This research note summarizes the departmental responses as well as other recent research on time to degree. It concludes with a few suggestions on new ways to address the issue of time to degree. One of the major themes that emerged from the departmental responses was that despite their efforts to improve time to degree through curricular and administrative measures, many departments felt they were able to achieve only limited improvements. They reported that many of their students were taking longer to graduate due to factors beyond their control such as the need to work for wages in order to finance their education.
Freshmen who entered in autumn of 1991 and transfers who entered in autumn of 1992 were surveyed if they were enrolled spring quarter, 1991, but were not enrolled fall, 1991, or winter, 1992. Half of these former students were surveyed by telephone; half by mail. The response rate for the former was 15.6% and for the latter was 30.2%. Factors leading to attrition were found to be in part personal and in part indigenous to a large university. The most common reason stated for leaving UW was financial, followed by inability to get the program of their choice. Nearly all respondents indicated that they intended to continue their education and over half were enrolled in another school at the time of the survey.
Two UW freshman-entrant samples were studied based on official UW records: all students who entered as Freshman in the fall of 1987 and all students who graduated in the spring of 1993. The purpose of the study was determine factors related to whether undergraduates obtained degrees and the length of time to do so. Regularly admitted students were found to graduate at twice the rate of specially admitted students. Generally, professional school students took longer to graduate than Arts and Sciences majors. Seventy-eight percent of the graduates declared only one major (excluding pre-majors). For those who changed their majors each major change added about one quarter and twelve credits. To reduce graduation time, the report suggests that intervention to reduce total credits may have a larger impact than interventions to increase credit loads.