Graduation and retention rates have become common success metrics in higher education. These statistics are at the core of a growing political discussion to make post-secondary education more accessible and affordable.
The current six-year graduation rate for public colleges and universities in the United States is 57%, a percentage that is broadly deemed unsustainable. A post-secondary educated workforce, many argue, is necessary to ameliorate the widening earning gap and resulting hit to the middle class. As more jobs become automated, demand for employees with an associate or bachelor’s degree will outstrip supply, a process that many say has already begun.
In response to these troubling trends, the University of Tennessee made graduation and retention rate improvement an institutional commitment. UT’s success is worthy of investigation at a time when graduation metrics have become part of the public dialogue, but have shown little movement on a national level.