The University of Minnesota's four year grad rates are up

The number of University of Minnesota students who get their diplomas in four years is on the rise.

The four year graduation rate at the U’s Twin Cities campus is now 54 percent, four points higher than last year.  A decade ago the number was below 30 percent.

The U’s dean of undergraduate education, Bob McMaster, will unveil the numbers during a board of regents committee meeting today.

McMaster gave me a preview of the report on Wednesday.  He told me the rate is up in part because the U has become a more selective institution.

“As you bring in better and better classes in terms of higher school rank and rigor of the curriculum and ACT (scores), there’s a very strong correlation between the incoming metrics and the graduation rates,” McMaster said.

McMaster claims the U is doing a better job of retaining those students as well.  It’s a simple formula: if more students stay in school, more students graduate in four years.

The U is working harder to welcome those students to campus as freshmen and that tends to help them do a better in the classroom.  The school also monitors students much more closely than it did in the past, and so advisers know when students need help.

The U has been working to hit a four year rate of 60 percent by 2012.  McMaster admits that’ll be a tough goal to make.

“And that’s OK,” McMaster said.  “We are moving toward the targets quickly.  I never would have expected to see a four point jump this year.  If we do get that four point jump next year that would be eight points in two years.  I’ll take that anytime.”

The U of M’s coordinate campus four year rates aren’t quite as good.

Morris is close though, with a rate of 51.5 percent.

However the Duluth and Crookston campuses both come in at about 30 percent. McMaster said he’d rather officials at those campuses respond to their numbers.  I hope to hear from them when I stop by the U of M regents’ meeting on Friday.

McMaster says he’s happy with how the U’s four year rate is competing with its peer institutions around the country.  The U used to be at the bottom of the pack.  Now it’s moved toward the middle.