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June 8, 2021

MSU outpaces ambitious graduation goals as part of national coalition

A national public research university consortium focused on student success, including Michigan State University, has exceeded graduation targets set during President Obama’s College Opportunity Summit in 2014. 


At its launch, the 11 University Innovation Alliance member presidents set a goal to graduate an additional 68,000 students above their baseline projections over the next 10 years and committed that half of them would come from low-income backgrounds. In just six years, the UIA schools exceeded that goal by graduating an additional 73,573 students, increasing graduates from low-income backgrounds by 36% and graduates of color by 73%. The institutions are now projected to graduate 136,000 students over initial projections by 2023 — double the original goal.


In 2014, MSU’s six-year graduation rate was 77%, but it set a very ambitious goal for an overall graduation rate of 82%. Through its involvement with the UIA and many other university efforts, MSU’s overall graduation rates have increased for five consecutive years. MSU’s 2020 six-year graduation rate for first-time, full-time students increased to 81.3% from 2019’s rate of 80.7%.


Although Spartans can be proud of the graduation rate increases, there is more work to be done, said MSU President Samuel L. Stanley Jr., M.D.


“First and foremost, we believe that all admitted MSU students can learn, thrive and graduate,” Stanley said. “We are committed to narrowing opportunity gaps that remain and will continue expanding our student support programs, innovation in educational instruction and our highly successful neighborhood-based student services.”


The pandemic was expected to negatively impact students academically, but it hasn’t at MSU, according to Mark Largent, associate provost for undergraduate education and dean of undergraduate studies.


“We are proud of our students and all they have endured over the last year and a half,” Largent said.  “When we were forced to go remote, we made quick pivots for instruction and for all our advising and support programs. Overall, we have not seen any significant decrease in grades or GPA, and we did not see an increase in probation rates. This is due to the great work of our instructors and staff moving everything into remote formats so quickly and comprehensively.”


In addition to overall graduation rates, the six-year graduation rate for underrepresented minority students increased to 66.9%, the highest rate in recent years and a 3.5 percentage point increase from last year. 


The six-year graduation rate for students who receive Pell grants has remained steady at 71%. First-generation students had a six-year graduation rate of 73.3%, an almost full percentage point increase over last year’s rate of 72.4%. 


“MSU and its leadership have been a critical partner in our efforts to advance an ambitious agenda on behalf of students,” said UIA Executive Director Bridget Burns. “The campus should be very proud of its progress to date, but we all know there’s more work to be done, and we look forward to this next phase of collaboration and innovation.”




By: Kim Ward

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