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 and adopted in response to UNC System accountability requirements.

More recently, a working group supporting Thrive@Carolina, a University-wide initiative to help students succeed at UNC-Chapel Hill and beyond, has been engaged in reviewing data and establishing thresholds and new goals for undergraduate student achievement.

The University also assesses graduate and professional student achievement in relation to goals using time to degree and performance on licensure examinations.

For the metrics shown below, the “target” is the performance level to be maintained or achieved by a certain year; the “threshold” (where applicable) is the minimum level of acceptability, below which action would be taken to investigate or intervene to improve performance.

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 Threshold Actual Target (ongoing)
<95% 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 targets below were approved by the Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost on the recommendation of the Thrive@Carolina working group.

Threshold Actual Target (for 2024)
Four-Year Graduation Rate: 2012 Cohort <80% 82% 92%
Six-Year Graduation Rate: 2010 Cohort <89% 91% 95%

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 was an important priority 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 Target for 2021
Low Income Not Low Income Gap 1st Generation Not 1st Generation Gap Gap
Four-Year Graduation Rate: 2012  79% 85% -6% 76% 84% -8% 0%
Six-Year Graduation Rate: 2010 Cohort 90% 92% -2% 86% 93% -7% 0%

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.

Transfer Student Four-Year Graduation Rates
2008 Entering Cohort 2013 Entering Cohort Target for 2021
Sophomores (after 3 years) 73% 80% 80%
Juniors (after 2 years) 64% 67% 80%

Source: ConnectCarolina as of November 7, 2016

Engagement in High Impact Learning Activities

Ensuring that all students will have a transformative academic experience 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. Thresholds and goals for graduates who complete these “high impact” learning activities are as follows:

Threshold 2015-16 Graduates Target 2020-21
Taken research intensive course <60% 63% 68%
Taken a first year seminar <50% 52% 57%
Studied abroad or participated in other international experiences <35% 40% 45%
Taken a service learning course <35% 40% 45%

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  17
     Luce Scholars Program     38      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 2016 reported their status as shown below. The ongoing target is for 90% of degree recipients to be employed full-time or pursuing graduate or professional studies.

     72.40%   Employed full-time
     22.20%   Pursuing graduate or professional studies
      4.20%   Seeking employment or pursuing other interests
      0.70%   Not Seeking Employment/Taking Time Off

Note: Based on survey responses from 2,430 of the 3,722 May 2016 bachelor’s degree recipients (65% response rate). See the detailed report.

Graduate Student Achievement Measures

2015-16 Doctoral Degree Recipients: Median Years to Degree

2015-16 Doctoral Time to Degree

Source: The Graduate School, UNC-Chapel Hill
Prepared by: Office of Institutional Research and Assessment (OIRA), March 22, 2017

Professional Student Performance on Licensure Examinations

Nearly all of the professional schools at UNC-Chapel Hill prepare graduates for professional practice requiring licensure or certification examinations. A complete report of trends in those examination results, the minimum thresholds for acceptability and the targets established for passing rates or benchmarking using national norms is available upon request from the Office of Institutional Research and Assessment.