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Utah Public Colleges, Universities Graduating Nearly 29,000 Students This Year

Photo of Weber State commencement.
Weber State University
Weber State University students celebrate their graduation on April 26, 2019. WSU’s graduating class has grown by 2,000 students in the past decade. ";

Almost 29,000 students are graduating this year from Utah’s eight public colleges and universities. The graduating classes for nearly all of these public institutions have grown since last year, but that doesn’t necessarily mean all have seen improvement in their graduation rates.

According to the most recent data from 2017 compiled by the Utah System of Higher Education, or USHE, the University of Utah had the best graduation rate of the group, 67%, while Salt Lake Community College had the lowest, 22%, according.

The graduation rates are measured by the percentage of first-time full-time students who graduate with an associates degree within three years or a bachelor’s degree within six years. USHE overall graduation rate is 42%, a slight improvement from 2009.

Dave Buhler, the commissioner for higher education for USHE, said the graduation rates at institutions can be affected by the number of part-time students they have. But he’s hopeful the situation will improve with numerous efforts that the institutions and USHE have implemented and a $31.5 million appropriation that the Utah Legislature approved for performance improvement efforts at the schools.

“When students come to us, their goal is to graduate and leave with a certificate or a degree,” Buhler said. “As higher education institutions, we need to take some responsibility to make sure that they have the tools that will help them to be successful.”

In the past decade, the University of Utah has raised its graduation rate from 58% to almost 70%. This year, its number of graduating students is slightly lower than last year’s class. The university hopes its graduation rate will be closer to 80% in the next five to seven years, said Dan Reed, the university’s senior vice president of academic affairs.

Photo of graduation cap.
Credit Weber State University
More than 5,000 Weber State University students applied for graduation this year, making it the biggest graduating class yet.

The improvement is in part due to increasing the availability of financial aid and scholarships, adding what he calls peer student success advocates who connect struggling students with resources across campus and expanding online undergraduate and graduate programs, Reed said.

The school’s online programs can benefit students who are no longer living near the campus but still want to complete their degree.

“There’s a dramatic difference in lifetime earnings based on graduating as opposed to almost graduating,” Reed said.

Weber State University’s graduating class has grown by 2,000 students in the past decade, but its graduation rate, 33%, has seen slight improvement since 2009.

Provost Madonne Miner said efforts to raise the Ogden institution’s graduation rate include hiring retention counselors, purchasing a program that identifies struggling students and making orientation mandatory for students.

“Often students fumble around for a while and if they fumble around, it’s going to take them much longer get to graduation and they get discouraged,” Miner said. “So if we can be more helpful about providing a pathway that can carry them to graduation more quickly, that’s what we want to do.”

These are the number of graduates from each public institution this year:

  • University of Utah: 8,465
  • Weber State University: 5,988
  • Utah Valley University: 5,953
  • Salt Lake Community College: 3,299
  • Southern Utah University: 2,067
  • Dixie State University: 1,828
  • Snow College: 1,108
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