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University of California system joins Project Degree Completion Initiative

big>Project Degree Completion Initiative
3.8 mil: Additional college graduates to be produced
2025: Year by which initiative will be completed
83: Percent of UC freshman who graduate in six years

SOURCE: University of California, AASCU

By Nicole Chiang

Oct. 10, 2012 1:44 a.m.

Within the next 13 years, UCLA will attempt to generate more college graduates than it is currently producing, as part of a national initiative to boost graduation rates.

Public universities across the nation recently pledged to increase the number of college graduates by 3.8 million by 2025.

The Project Degree Completion initiative ““ organized by the American Association of State Colleges and Universities and the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities ““ aims to raise the level of college completion in order to meet economic and global competition, said Paul Hassen, a spokesman at the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities.

The U.S. ranks 14th globally in the percentage of young adults with a higher education degree, according to data released last month by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, which tracks educational performance within countries

“In order to compete in a global market, (the U.S. needs to) maintain our edge,” he said. “This has typically been in the area of education and the amount of college graduates we can produce in order to maintain our level of innovation and discovery.”

The national endeavor requires the help of colleges across the country, he added.

Almost 500 four-year public colleges and universities, including the entire University of California system, pledged to participate in the initiative, according to a statement issued by the American Association of State Colleges and Universities on October 2.

“The UC’s are already making progress on graduation rates, and we are happy to be a part of a larger, nation-wide effort,” said Dianne Klein, a UC spokeswoman.

About 80 percent of freshmen entering the UC system graduate within six years, according to the most recent UC accountability report. In comparison, about 47 percent of freshmen entering the California State University system graduate within six years, according to the California Postsecondary Education Commission website.

UCLA is one of the leading universities when it comes to graduation rates and made the pledge to continue on this path, said Kim Kovacs, executive director of federal relations at UCLA. The retention programs the university offers are part of the reason why graduation rates are so high, she added.

Colleges participating in the Project Degree Complete initiative can achieve the goal of increasing the number of graduates through a number of steps, including shortening the time to degree completion, having greater retention of students and following up on students who leave before graduating, Hassen said.

Ultimately, it is up to the individual colleges to decide how to accomplish this, which means some colleges may simply enroll a greater number of students, he said.

To maintain high degree-attainment rates, UCLA plans to ensure students are aware of study programs ““ such as the Academic Advancement Program ““ and make relevant classes available for students to graduate in time, Kovacs said. The university does not, however, plan on admitting more students to increase graduation rates, she added.

Progress on the initiative will be measured by annual reports on graduation rates that will be available to the public, Hassen said. Pledging by universities is done on a voluntary basis. There is no penalty for colleges that are unable to raise their graduation rates, he said.

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Nicole Chiang
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