Graduation within 4 Years and Degrees to Minorities Graduation within 4 Years and Degrees to Minorities

Iowa’s Public Universities will increase the percent of undergraduate students who graduate within four years

“One of the many reasons students are attracted to Iowa’s Public Universities is the tools the universities offer to help students succeed. The living-learning communities are a proven element of student success as they have a positive impact on student retention and graduation rates.”

  • Regent Greta Johnson

In FY 2011, Iowa’s Public Universities continued to show strength in their four-year graduation rates as they reported stable and increasing numbers of students – an average of 41% – completing their degrees in four years. This success is closely linked to the universities’ success in student retention – the return of an entering class of students to the same institution in successive years until completion of a degree.

Student retention after the first year of study is a particularly important indicator of student success toward graduation. In the fall of 2010, Iowa’s Public Universities reported an average one-year retention rate of 85.6% among first-year students, consistently remaining above the national retention average of 78.6% for all public four-year colleges.

UI Student Hollyanne Butler, Letts, Iowa

The idea of connecting with other students who share her academic interests and perspectives prompted Hollyanne Butler to join the University of Iowa’s Women in Science and Engineering Living-Learning Community.

“I wanted to be around people who had the same homework as I did,” says the sophomore electrical and computer engineering major from Letts, Iowa. “Women are in the minority in many STEM programs, and this community contributes to our collaboration and success,” says Butler.

ISU student Chloe Dedic, Mason City, Iowa, on the Women in Science and Engineering (WISE) Learning Community


Learning communities are the hallmark of the universities’ retention efforts. These communities bring together small groups of students who share common academic goals, courses, and places of residence, and who participate together in various activities that provide faculty interaction, faculty/peer mentoring and tutoring, and career exploration. Students who participate in learning communities are more likely to continue their education than students who are not involved in a learning community.

The success of the learning communities has led Iowa’s Public Universities to implement additional programs designed for student success and retention. This consists of dedicated university retention programs that provide targeted first-year initiatives and transition programs for students. In addition, admission partnership agreements between Iowa’s Public Universities and Iowa’s community colleges are designed to reduce obstacles for transfer students, facilitate a smooth transition to the university, and foster timely degree completion.

Iowa’s Public Universities continue to expand their living-learning communities and implement numerous programs that contribute to four-year graduation rates. These specialized programs evaluate students’ needs for successful academic performance, deliver coursework specifically tailored to the needs of first-year students, and when necessary, provide targeted instructional programs, tutoring and advising services.


Degrees to Minorities

Iowa’s Public Universities will increase the degree attainment of underrepresented minority students

“As Iowa plays a stronger role in the global economy, a diverse learning environment becomes a more important element of the educational experience as Iowa’s Public Universities prepare our students for Iowa’s future workforce.”
– Regent Ruth Harkin

Our student retention efforts also provide a critical link to our success in minority degree completion. The universities have developed strong diversity initiatives in close collaboration with their retention offices to provide the additional support that many minority students need to stay in school. This includes enhanced tutoring and mentoring efforts, scholarships, and other programs targeted to minority success.

UI student Al Brown, Charlotte, North Carolina

“I chose Iowa after being accepted to Iowa Biosciences Advantage,” says the Charlotte, North Carolina Native. The program identifies talented undergraduates from backgrounds underrepresented in research.

The goal: provide one-on-one mentoring, travel to academic conferences, and other experiences that prep students for graduate programs in the biomedical, behavioral, or biophysical sciences. In Brown’s case, that meant working with a Carver College of Medicine team studying streptococcus bacteria.

“I love doing research and knowing there’s a possibility that I could help millions of lives by discovering something new,” says Brown, today a junior microbiology major. “This is what I want to do for my career.”

Minority enrollment in STEM programs is also a focus. In the fall 2010 report of student retention and graduation rates, the number of undergraduate minority students majoring in STEM programs totaled 1,691, an increase of 138 students (8.9%) from the previous year. This represents 9.3% of all STEM majors at Iowa’s Public Universities.

UNI student Roxy Garza, San Antonio, TX

Prior to transferring to the University of Northern Iowa, Roxy Garza participated in the UNI Jump Start program, an extended summer orientation designed to facilitate the successful transition of new freshmen and transfer students from ethnically, culturally, and socioeconomically diverse backgrounds.
“Everyone involved with the Jump Start program has been very supportive and encouraging. Because of them, I am well on my way to achieving my goals. Attending UNI has been one of the best decisions I have ever made.”

ISU students and identical twins Jonathan and Donathan Morgan, Kansas City, Missouri. Photo by Bob Elbert

Identical twins Jonathan and Donathan Morgan of Kansas City, Missouri, sophomores in the ISU College of Engineering, selected Iowa State for the strength of its engineering program and its friendly campus atmosphere. The brothers are recipients of the prestigious and highly competitive Gates Millennium Scholarship for low-income minority students.

The twins spent the summer prior to their first semester at ISU in the College of Engineering’s Summer Program for Enhancing Engineering Development (SPEED). This summer bridge program works to boost engineering students’ math and physics skills in preparation for the rigors of engineering and college life. “SPEED helped prepare us for the learning that was ahead of us at ISU,” Jonathan said.

“SPEED was an awesome transition between high school and college engineering,” Donathan said. “On weekdays, we were in class literally all day doing math, physics and advanced algebra. And on the weekends, we visited several engineering companies, like John Deere, Pella Windows and Rockwell Collins.

“We don’t know exactly what we want to do, but we want to do something great,” Donathan said. “We want to contribute to the world.”