Student Achievement Goals and Success

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The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s mission emphasizes its strong commitment to preparing students to become “the next generation of leaders.”

Supporting student achievement is at the heart of the University’s strategic priorities. Goals for student success have been outlined in the 2011 Academic Plan, recommended by working groups such as the 21st Century Vision Committee on Models of Undergraduate Education, and adopted in response to UNC System accountability requirements.

The University has established a variety of metrics to measure student achievement in relation to these goals. Results are monitored regularly to inform efforts to improve the quality of academic programs and enhance the academic experience for all students. Some of the major indicators of student achievement are provided here.

First-to-Second Year Retention

UNC-Chapel Hill is one of the top public institutions in the nation in the percentage of first-year undergraduate students who return for their second year of study, consistently achieving its target of 97% for each entering cohort.

Returned for Year 2
2015 First-Year Cohort Actual Target
97% 97%

Source: ConnectCarolina as of November 7, 2016

Graduation Rates

All First-Year Entering Students

Over the past decade, enhanced academic support services have contributed to significant increases in graduation rates. UNC-Chapel Hill’s four-year graduation rate is second only to the University of Virginia’s among elite public research institutions. The University has also met or exceeded the four- and six-year graduation rate targets set with the UNC System as shown below.

Actual Target
Four-Year Graduation Rate: 2012 First-Year Cohort 82% 81%
Six-Year Graduation Rate: 2010 First-Year Cohort 91% 90%

Source: ConnectCarolina as of November 7, 2016

Low Income and First Generation Students

The goal of removing disparities between the graduation rates of low income and first generation students and the graduation rates of other members of their cohorts is an important component of the 2011 Academic Plan. UNC-Chapel Hill is making steady progress in reducing these gaps through support programs such as the Carolina Covenant for students from low income families and the Carolina Firsts for students who will be the first in their families to receive a four-year degree.

By Family Income Status By Parent Education Status
Low Income Not Low Income 1st Generation Not 1st Generation
Four-Year Graduation Rate: 2012 First-Year Cohort 79% 85% 76% 84%
Six-Year Graduation Rate: 2010 First-Year Cohort 90% 92% 86% 93%

Source: ConnectCarolina as of November 7, 2016

Transfer Students

Improving the four-year graduation rate for transfer students to 80% over the next decade was another goal set out in the 2011 Academic Plan. Using the data available at that time as a baseline, transfer student four-year graduation rates have increased at a pace that should exceed that goal by 2017.

Transfer Student Four-Year Graduation Rates
2008 Entering Cohort 2013 Entering Cohort Target for 2017 Entering Cohort
Sophomores (after 3 years) 73% 79% 80%
Juniors (after 2 years) 64% 63% 80%

Source: ConnectCarolina as of November 7, 2016

Engagement in High Impact Learning Activities

Ensuring that all students will have a transformative academic experience while at UNC-Chapel Hill is one of highest priorities identified in the 2011 Academic Plan. This goal is achieved by engaging students in academic and co-curricular activities that challenge them to connect their classroom learning with the problems of society and to prepare for citizenship in an increasingly global economy. The estimated percentages of recent graduates who completed these “high impact” learning activities are as follows:

     Taken research intensive course   63%
     Taken a first year seminar   52%
     Studied abroad or participated in other international experiences   40%
     Taken a service learning course   40%

Sources: Research-Intensive Courses: College of Arts and Sciences; ConnectCarolina

Prestigious Awards

The academic and co-curricular achievements of UNC-Chapel Hill students have been recognized with a number of prestigious scholarships and awards over time, including the following:

     Rhodes Scholarship     49      Marshall Scholarship 17
     Goldwater Scholarship     45      Churchill Scholarship  16
     Luce Scholars Program     37      Udall Scholarship 15
     Truman Scholarship     30      Boren Fellowship 13

Source: Office of Distinguished Scholarships (July 5, 2016)

Alumni Success

UNC-Chapel Hill alumni surveyed six months after receiving their bachelor’s degrees in 2015 reported their status as follows:

     67%   Employed full-time
     24%   Pursuing graduate or professional studies
      8%   Seeking employment or pursuing other interests
      2%   Not Seeking Employment/Taking Time Off


A total of 3,924 undergraduates earned a bachelor’s degree in May 2015. Out of this number of graduates, a total of 2,571 responded to the First Destination Survey (65.6%).See the detailed report at: