May 5, 2021  |  News & Events, Provost's Office Strategic Updates, Timely Announcements

Welcome to our new Strategic Update. Periodically, we will provide Strategic Updates to communicate key details about ongoing and new initiatives in Academic Affairs; initiatives focusing on student success, curriculum, research, and diversity, equity, and inclusion. A key objective of these Strategic Updates is to provide clarity on our goals and how the various initiatives combine to drive toward a sustainable future for UWM.

In this first update, we provide an overview of the key metrics that we use to measure the success of our students. Despite the pandemic, we have made progress in many areas in recent years, and new initiatives such as the Moon Shot for Equity and the 2030 work on student success will be critical to continuing our progress and eliminating inequitable outcomes.

Please take time to read this and future Strategic Updates and consider how all our efforts collectively contribute to the success of our students and UWM.

Take care,



Outstanding Learning Environment

In 2018, the Chancellor’s Enrollment Management Action Team identified key metrics that could best enable us to measure the success of students in UWM’s unique environment, incorporating both the standard metrics used by most institutions (e.g., four- and six-year graduation rates and first-year retention), as well as areas of unique concern (e.g., expansion of experiential learning).

By our own metrics, it’s clear that we have made good progress in recent years and that we have much more work ahead to guarantee success for all UWM students. Please see Table 1.

Table 1: click table to enlarge
Metrics shown on graduation and retention rates

Looking back over the past few years, we can see good progress in some areas. Four- and six-year graduation rates have improved for Pell-eligible and non-Pell-eligible students. First-year retention dipped slightly during the pandemic, but otherwise has steadily increased. Credits to degree is dropping, and we’ve seen a significant increase in the number of students who are completing 30 credits in their first year, a key indicator of persistence and predictor of future success.

That said, we face significant challenges in equity. Our recent data on equitable outcomes (“Eliminating URM gaps”) show wide variability, indicating that that we must prioritize action in this area. It is important to stress that our goal on *all* of our metrics is not simply progress against our own past, but outcomes we can be proud of, that put us in good standing nationally. In these charts, you can see how our improvements track against the median success rates of our peers.[1]

1-year Retention Rates (IPEDS): UWM vs. Peer Institutions

4-year Graduation Rates (IPEDS): UWM vs. Peer Institutions

6-year Graduation Rates (IPEDS): UWM vs. Peer Institutions

Next Steps
Our recent progress suggests we’re doing some things right. Additionally, we are taking significant steps towards improving outcomes and equity through new initiatives such as the UWM 2030 Initiative and the Moon Shot for Equity. All told, we are working on four key actions:

  • Improve Pre-College and Transfer Opportunities
  • Develop Coordinated Advising and Support Structures
  • Provide Training and Technology for Student Success
  • Create a Unique and Coordinated Student-Centric UWM Experience

A future Provost Strategic Update will discuss these four actions and how our various initiatives intertwine to drive improvements in student success.


[1] For the purpose of this document, “peer institutions” are Cleveland State University, CUNY City College, Georgia State University, Indiana University-Purdue University-Indianapolis, Portland State University, University of Illinois at Chicago, University of Massachusetts-Boston, University of Memphis, University of Missouri-St Louis, University of New Orleans, University of Toledo, Virginia Commonwealth University, Wayne State University.

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