UConn Students Earn Degrees More Quickly Than National Average

Students during a lecture in the Chemistry Building on March 13, 2013. (Sean Flynn/UConn Photo)
Students listen during a lecture in the Chemistry Building. New data indicates that UConn students graduate in 4.2 years, almost a full year ahead of the average bachelor’s degree candidate nationwide. (Sean Flynn/UConn File Photo)

UConn students are graduating with their undergraduate degrees in an average of 4.2 years, almost a full year ahead of the average bachelor’s degree candidate at more than 3,600 post-secondary institutions nationwide, according to new figures.

The National Student Clearinghouse Research Center says in a new report released this week that the average student nationwide takes 5.1 years to graduate, and that it is slightly higher at 5.2 years at four-year U.S. public universities like UConn.

UConn’s rate of 4.2 years ranks it sixth among 58 public national universities. That means UConn students spend less on tuition by avoiding extra semesters, and are able to start their careers and begin earning salaries before many of their peers.

Nichole Broderick, assistant professor of molecular and cell biology, left, and Katherine Tiernan '19 (ENG) look at a bacteria culture plate during a 'Microbe Hunting' class, part of a global collaboration between students and microbiologists called the Small World Initiative. (Peter Morenus/UConn Photo)
Nichole Broderick, assistant professor of molecular and cell biology, left, and Katherine Tiernan ’19 (ENG) look at a bacteria culture plate during a ‘Microbe Hunting’ class, part of a global collaboration between students and microbiologists called the Small World Initiative. (Peter Morenus/UConn Photo)

“Our success as an institution in this area all starts with our talented and diverse student population, which comes to UConn with high aspirations and energy,” President Susan Herbst said. “Our job as a top research university is to provide the kinds of learning experiences and flexibility they need to finish as quickly as they can, then move on to graduate school and careers. This data makes it clear that our focus in this area is paying off for our students.”

Sally Reis, UConn’s vice provost for academic affairs, says UConn’s 4.2-year time to graduation reflects a structured, intentional approach that includes findings from an institution-wide task force, student input, and best practices found in research.

For instance, UConn offers substantive orientation and First-Year Experience courses; Learning Communities and other community-building organizations; impactful early intervention programs; strong course availability, including in summer and winter sessions; and a variety of services to increase convenience and access to academic assistance, she said.

Many students also arrive at UConn with credit from Advanced Placement courses or some of UConn’s many ECE (Early College Experience) classes, which are taught in Connecticut high schools and contain college-level material.

“We find that when our students get off to a strong start at UConn, they develop the mindset that they can and will earn their degree on time,” Reis said. “UConn works hard to provide a variety of high-impact programs and practices to support them, and they engage their talent and ambition to succeed.”

UConn’s Academic Plan also emphasizes offering an outstanding undergraduate experience, including through programs tailored to help students graduate on time.

Doug Shapiro, executive director of the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center, said in a news release that the average time nationwide for students to earn their degrees was also influenced by whether they transferred between institutions, stopped taking classes at any point, or attended part time rather than full time.

Engineering Graduation 2012
Leonela Villegas, left, and Anthony La pose for photos after the School of Engineering commencement ceremony. (Peter Morenus/UConn File Photo)

“Time to degree has long been viewed as an important outcome for research and policy,” the report says. “It is an important consideration for students, parents, institutions and states because of the financial implications the length of enrollment can have on each of these stakeholders.”

The amount of time that it takes for students to earn a degree from their institutions is important “because each additional term of enrollment has the potential to increase the cost to the student, both through foregone earnings and additional tuition expenses,” the report says.

The data reviewed students at about 3,600 colleges and universities nationwide who earned their first associate’s degree or bachelor’s degree between July 1, 2014, and June 30, 2015.