More U of M students able to graduate in four years

A much larger share of students are graduating from the University of Minnesota in four years than two decades ago.

Campus officials told regents today that 59 percent of the university’s students graduate. That’s close to the 60 percent rate that the university set in 2006.

The Twin Cities campus ranks 10th out of 17 peer universities in four-year graduation rates. But in the early 1990s, it was at the bottom of the pack, with a graduation rate of just over 15 percent.

One reason for the dramatic improvement is that the U of M is admitting stronger students, Vice Provost Robert McMaster said.

“We now are attracting high-ability students to the university who, 10-20 years ago, were not looking at the U of M,” McMaster said. “They were going elsewhere.”

But there is also increased financial pressure on students to graduate in four years.

“One of the problems with the whole issue around the country with indebtedness and student debt is because students have not been graduating in a timely way,” McMaster said. “So you can significantly reduce the cost of education by graduating in four years.”

Four-year graduation rates of colleges within the U varied.

With a graduation rate of over 80 percent, the Carlson School of Management was the highest within the U of M — and was above its own goal of 70 percent.

The colleges with the next two highest graduation rates were Design (71.5 percent) and Biological Sciences (69.2 percent). Both were well above their goals.

The College of Education and Human Development had the lowest graduation rates, at about 47 percent, far below its goal of 60 percent. McMaster said that’s because the college has the highest percentage of first-generation and low-income students.

The College of Liberal Arts had a rate of 54.3 percent, below its goal of 60 percent. McMaster said a higher proportion of students there tend to be undecided about their majors, and so take longer to get a degree.

Science and Engineering had a rate of 59.8 percent — above its goal of 55 percent — and the College of Food, Agriculture and Natural Resource Sciences had a rate of 59.3 percent, just under its goal of 60 percent.