Campus News

UK: Record Retention, Graduation Rates as Efforts Continue to Remove Debt Burden

photo of students walking on campus

LEXINGTON, Ky. (Sept. 14, 2018) – The University of Kentucky has dramatically accelerated retention and graduation rates to record levels in the last four years, UK officials said Friday.

Moreover, fueled by the nationally heralded UK Leveraging Economic Affordability for Developing Success (UK LEADS) program, unmet financial need is declining for university students as the institution launches a capital campaign with a chief goal of creating thousands of scholarships, making the University of Kentucky even more affordable and accessible to more Kentuckians.

“Our goals for this university and for the state are ambitious, but we have a strategy and plan to achieve them. And the strategy is working,” said UK Provost David Blackwell. “This year’s class is the most academically qualified in our history, even as we have continued to grow in size. Our retention and graduation rates are now at record levels, supported by increasing investment in – and focus on – student success.”

Specifically, some key measures of progress and areas of continued focus include:

  • The six-year graduation rate for the class that graduated in 2018 is expected to be 65.6 percent, up more than 5 percentage points in the last four years.
  • The rate of progress for four-year graduation rates is expected to be even more pronounced at 45.5 percent for 2018, up 7 percentage points in the last four years.
  • Retention rates this year are currently approaching 85 percent and are expected to increase by nearly 3 percentage points since 2016 once numbers are final.
  • The current fall 2018 first-year class is made up of 5,102 students – the third time in the last four years that number has exceeded 5,100. In-state/out-of-state enrollment has remained roughly the same, at about 65 percent to 35 percent.
  • At the same time, even with a class of about 200 more students, the academic quality of the class has continued to increase, with this year’s average ACT score at 25.9, up from 25.5 last year, and the average Grade Point Average at 3.76, up from 3.70.
  • For fall 2017 in-state students, average unmet financial need is projected to decline by 12 percent from the previous year and be at the lowest level since 2013. Moreover, students receiving pilot grants to address unmet financial need demonstrated retention rates nearly 20 percentage points higher than predicted levels without the aid.

One area of challenge, Blackwell told members of the Board of Trustees Friday, is in the number of underrepresented minority students at UK this fall. Although numbers of Hispanic and International students have remained relatively constant and the overall total is only 22 students fewer than last year, the percentage of African-American students in the first-year class is down by a little more than 1 percentage point this year.

A number of factors contributed to the number, Blackwell said, including the fact that increasing numbers of students now identify as two or more races or decline to identify racially at all. Blackwell said UK officials already are working on strategic initiatives, including hiring two additional diversity recruiters, making plans to distribute scholarships offerings earlier as part of an effort to be more competitive, and creating specific events to better engage students from underrepresented populations.

“We are pleased with this class and the progress we are making, but, as always we have more work to do,” Blackwell said. “It is work we are committed to doing and progress we are committed to making -- but the trajectory we are on is undeniable. We must continue it to meet our mission as an institution and on behalf of the Commonwealth that we serve.”

View Provost Blackwell’s presentation about this year’s enrollment and related issues.

UK is the University for Kentucky. At UK, we are educating more students, treating more patients with complex illnesses and conducting more research and service than at any time in our 150-year history. To read more about the UK story and how you can support continued investment in your university and the Commonwealth, go to: #uk4ky #seeblue