UK sees highest 6-year graduation rate ever

Story by Jill Laster

UK had its highest six-year graduation rate ever in 2007, university officials announced Friday.

Of the students who entered UK in 2001, 61.2 percent graduated with a bachelor’s degree six years later, up 2.1 percent from the year before. The rate of black students who graduated was also up more than 5 percent, to 50.3 in 2007.

UK’s Top 20 Business Plan calls for a six-year graduation rate of 72 percent by 2020, about 12 percentage points higher than it is now. Since 1998, the graduation rate has increased a little less than two percentage points.

Boosting the graduation rate more than 10 percent in the next 12 years will be “a difficult goal,” said UK spokesman Jay Blanton. One thing that will have to change to boost the rate is for students to come to college better prepared for a college student’s workload, he said.

Another challenge will be a lack of funding, he said. The Top 20 Business Plan calls for increasing the number of faculty by about 300 and requires about $20 million in new funding every year.

UK currently faces a 6 percent cut in state dollars over the next two years, and the $20 million funding gap has forced departments to look at any way they can trim expenses for the next two years, including the number of faculty hires.

“I think the university is committed to making strategic hiring investments, but I think it makes it more difficult when your resources are limited,” Blanton said.

Blanton said because the university’s budget is still being planned, it is not yet known whether UK’s $35 million War on Student Attrition program, which works to keep students enrolled until graduation, will be affected by the budget cuts. The program, launched last summer by President Lee Todd and Provost Kumble Subbaswamy, involves hiring new advisers and trying to intervene more quickly for students who may be at risk for dropping out. The program also includes $10 million to hire new faculty.

In a news release, Todd praised the increase in graduation rate, saying it serves to “underscore the importance of state investment in higher education.”

“Only with the appropriate resources can we increase faculty, and hold down class sizes — perhaps the most critical elements in ensuring student success,” he said.