The University recorded its highest ever six-year graduation rate this year putting it ahead of its peer institutions for the first time despite four consecutive years of state budget reductions.
In its fifth year hovering above 60 percent, the University’s graduation rate for students who began college in fall 2006 was 66.7 percent, nearly 5 percent higher than last year’s rate of 61.9 percent.
This year’s rate is also 27.3 percent better than the University’s graduation statistics dating back to 1993, when 39.4 percent of the freshman class of 1987 graduated, according to the Office of Budget and Planning.
The six-year graduation rate includes full-time, degree-seeking new freshmen who enrolled in the fall semester or prior summer semester.
The numbers once again solidify the University as having the best graduation rate of all Louisiana public universities, complementing its admissions standards, which are loftier than other public universities.
Interim System President and Chancellor William “Bill” Jenkins said the increase in graduation rates is due to increased admissions standards and a focus on services, such as the Center for Academic Success, which provide students with counseling on adjusting to and becoming successful while attending college.
“As you increase admission standards, it helps with retention rates,” Jenkins said. “Eventually, it impacts how many students graduate in six years.”
He stressed that the retention of students from freshman to sophomore years is a crucial aspect to keeping them until graduation.
Since 2008, the University has experienced a $102.22 million, or 43.6 percent, cut to its state appropriated funding.
Because of this, Jenkins called the graduation increase a “source of pride” because the University hasn’t been able to add services to help increase retention rates, meaning faculty had to work harder while they haven’t revived raises for the fifth straight year.
The 66.7 percent will also surpass the University’s peer institution graduation rate average, which will be about 64 percent this year, Jenkins said. The peer institutions’ official average should be released sometime in the spring.
“This sends a message that LSU is an institution that cares,” said Stuart Bell, executive vice chancellor and provost.
While both Jenkins and Bell acknowledged that achieving a 100 percent graduation rate is unrealistic, they both said they will push the University to continue to improve its rate year by year.
“We need to focus on what’s worked for us, and to move ahead, we need more time and investment by our faculty and resources,” Bell said.