New UCF programs aim to boost graduation rates
For some, UCF stands for "U Can't Finish." But with the implementation of new programs to improve graduation rates, the saying might just change to "U CAN Finish."
According to UCF data, the average UCF student graduates in 4 1/2 to 5 years. However, the addition of two new programs could change that.
University spokeswoman Zenaida Gonzalez Kotala said UCF is using predictive analytics to help identify students early on who may need assistance.
The analytics program is being piloted this fall with first-generation students — students who are the first in their families to attend college, Gonzalez Kotala said.
"Predictive analytics is a statistical tool that helps predict where students may do well or struggle academically based on historical and current data," Gonzalez Kotala said. "Once identified, academic counselors will contact the students to make sure they know about resources available to them."
The second program is an education campaign that began this summer and will have a bigger presence in the fall. It is intended to help students aim to graduate in four years by encouraging them to complete 30 credit hours per year.
Freshmen taking part in orientation this summer were informed about this new program so they can start setting goals early to better plan their classes and avoid excess hours to ensure graduating on time.
There are also fliers, posters, T-shirts and other displays that will catch students' attention about the new program.
"Students can complete credits in the fall, spring and summer, so that gives them some flexibility to focus on academics while participating in other opportunities that will help them succeed, such as internships, study abroad and becoming engaged on campus through clubs or groups," Gonzalez Kotala said.
The new programs will be implemented in hopes of students evaluating their goals, opportunities and academic requirements at UCF, and will help them plan accordingly from day one.
UCF has the third-highest graduation rate in the State University System, and with the six-year graduation rate used in the state to compare across the system, UCF currently has a 67 percent graduation rate.
"UCF is always looking for ways to help our students stay on track and graduate so they can pursue their aspirations — everything from designing a new rocket ship to starting a professional career or graduate school," Gonzalez Kotala said.
Other universities in the state are using programs that are similar to the newly implemented programs at UCF.
Steve Orlando, senior director for the University of Florida Media Relations, said UF uses a program called Universal Tracking to help students progress toward graduation in a timely manner, which frees up resources for other students coming in behind them.
"The program, combined with effective academic counseling, ensures that students know exactly where they are on their path toward graduation and completion so they can make adjustments as necessary along the way," Orlando said.
Orlando said UF has had this program in place since 1996. It offers a recommended semester plan for each major and illustrates an optimal path for completing the degree in a timely fashion.
Graduation rates at UF have risen steadily since the program was implemented, and Orlando said students have certainly benefited.
The four- and six-year graduation rates at UF are 67 percent and 85 percent, respectively.
The University of South Florida currently boasts a 63 percent six-year graduation rate, which is a record high for the institution. The new rate marks a 15-point jump from five years ago.
Adam Freeman, USF's Media and Public Affairs coordinator, said USF's Office of Student Success began a communications campaign designed to encourage students to enroll in 15 credit hours per semester, with the goal of helping more students graduate in four years.
"USF's [graduation rate] improvements from last year and during the past five years are among the highest in the country when compared to [other] Association of American Universities (AAU) members," Freeman said. "The accomplishment results from an unprecedented focus on student success, including the Take 15 campaign, utilizing a number of new tools and strategies to ensure that USF students graduate on time."
According to the 2012-13 Annual Accountability Report, USF has a 61 percent six-year graduation rate for first-time-in-college (FTIC) students, while UF has an 86 percent graduation rate and UCF has a 66 percent graduation rate.
UCF's President John C. Hitt has said the university's goal is to raise its six-year graduate rate to 70 percent in five years.