FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. — The University of Arkansas has reported a drop in its six-year graduation rate for the first time since 2013.

Figures show the graduation rate for students entering in fall 2011 fell to 61.5 percent, compared with the 64.5 percent rate for the previous year’s freshman class. That’s the lowest six-year graduation rate since 2007’s incoming freshmen, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reported .

According to state data, the university typically has the highest graduation rate among four-year public universities in Arkansas.

Statewide numbers aren’t yet available for the six-year graduation rate for students who were freshmen in 2011. But the University of Arkansas’ most recent graduation rate trailed those of some peer schools in nearby states such as Missouri, Tennessee and Texas.

The university doesn’t know why more students from the 2011 freshman class failed to earn degrees, said Jim Coleman, the school’s provost. That class had more than 4,400 first-time, full-time degree-seeking students.

Coleman said the statistic for that freshman class is an outlier compared to “more recent cohorts,” citing data for incoming students in 2012 that show nearly 63 percent have earned degrees within five years.

“So, it appears that not only was the drop an anomaly, but that efforts taken to improve graduation success have been working,” he said. “And, with our continued building on these efforts, we are looking forward to new record graduation rates in the future.”

University spokesman Mark Rushing listed new plans developed this year as examples “of our increased focus on assisting students with financial need to help ensure they stay in school and graduate.” The university has also worked to improve academic advising and personalized online information systems to better outline degree requirements and show who to reach out to for advising help, said Trevor Francis, the university’s associate vice provost and director of student success.

University officials expect to see the graduation rate rise between 5 and 10 percent within five years.


Information from: Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, http://www.arkansasonline.com

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