UC-wide graduation rates rise for both freshmen and transfers

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UC freshman and transfer graduation rates within four and two years, respectively, are at their highest since 1996, according to the UC’s online information center.

Across all UC campuses, freshmen enrolled in 2013 have a four-year graduation rate of 66.3 percent, while transfers who entered universities in 2015 hold a 57.4 percent rate. These numbers signify an increase of 20 percentage points for freshmen and almost 30 percentage points for transfers since 1996.

“We … see a more active focus by all campuses on supporting student success,” said Catherine Koshland, vice chancellor for undergraduate education, in an email.

UC Berkeley’s latest rate for four-year freshman graduation is the second highest in the UC system at 75.8 percent — the campus is bested only by UCLA at 78.2 percent. The two schools’ six-year rates for freshmen are on par, with UC Berkeley at 91 percent and UCLA at 90.6 percent. Transfer graduation rates at UC Berkeley follow a similar trend: The campus’s two-year rate of 60.6 percent sits behind those of UCLA and UC Santa Barbara, while its four-year rate of 91.5 percent ranks first in the UC system.

Koshland credits the rising rates for transfer students to policies that “improved course articulation” by specifying which courses from community colleges are eligible for UC credit, thus reducing the students’ workload within the last two years.

Recent transfer graduate Christian Riesgo, who works at the Transfer Student Center, praised the efficacy of transfer resources such as the Centers for Educational Equity & Excellence but also said that the “fast pace” of UC Berkeley can prevent transfer students from enjoying their experience.

“Transfer students need (a) bigger space,” Riesgo said.

When asked about potential causes for graduation rate variation, Associate Dean of Undergraduate Studies Richard Rhodes advised caution in attributing causes to individual stories and experiences, calling the tendency “one of the mistakes of logic.”

“I can give you my stories, but I can’t link them to the data,” Rhodes said, adding that the complexity of his stories leads to “a list of factors … (that) only scratch the surface.”

The report shows that UC students’ graduation rates across all races and ethnicities are higher than those at other public universities within the Association of American Universities, though all perform worse than private universities with regard to graduating freshman rates.

UC Berkeley has also seen drops in Black and Native American transfer students’ two-year graduation rates between 2014 and 2015 — from 47 to 43 percent for Black students and from 58 to 43 percent for Native Americans — while rates for Hispanic/Latinx and Asian students are higher, according to the information center.

“It’s important to keep in mind that … these are very small populations of incoming students (fewer than 25 Native Americans, and about 90 African Americans). Because of this, we have seen fluctuations in our trend data before,” said campus spokesperson Janet Gilmore in an email. “This does not necessarily suggest a downward trend.”

Contact Anna Ho at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @anna_j_ho.