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News & Media

Degree Completion Award Finalist Spotlight: the University of North Carolina at Charlotte

October 11, 2019

As part of its ongoing efforts to increase degree completion, APLU named the University of Central Florida, the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, and the University of Rhode Island as finalists for its 2019 Degree Completion Award. The annual prize works to identify, recognize, and reward institutions that employ innovative approaches to improve retention and degree completion. One of the three finalists will be named the 2019 Degree Completion Award winner during the APLU Annual Meeting, November 10-12, in San Diego, California. In this post, APLU profiles the University of North Carolina at Charlotte’s efforts to improve retention and degree completion.

In 2011, the University of North Carolina at Charlotte launched a three-pronged approach to improving student success through its 49er Graduation Initiative. The effort engages students as active agents in their own success, proactively advises at-risk students and advances policies that optimize students’ path to graduation. Though the university’s Prospect for Success curriculum, more than 90 percent of incoming first-time college students take a first-semester academic engagement class centered on building their commitment to success, developing critical thinking skills and enhancing their cultural awareness.

UNC Charlotte also systematically uses technology to identify emerging indicators of academic risk and then proactively connect students with advisors to help them get back on the path to timely graduation. Finally, the university has created a graduation metrics platform to help departments and colleges identify common curricular barriers to completion and address them on an ongoing basis. This process led to changes to prerequisite sequences that created unnecessary hurdles, changes to semester schedules to offer critical progression courses year-round, changes to course content and improvements in faculty advising.

This wide-ranging approach to student-centered reform has helped increase its six-year graduation rate by 10 percent since the 2009 and increase its four-year graduation rate by 17 percent over the same period – to 43 percent for the 2015 cohort. Now UNC Charlotte is focused on using a continuous improvement framework to build on these gains.

  • Degree Completion & Student Success

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