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Analysis shows SDSU ranked among nation's best for exceeding graduation rates

2019 commencement
Analysis done by The New York Times and the Urban Institute’s Center on Education Data and Policy showed South Dakota State University was one of the nation's top-performing institutions in terms of exceeding expected six-year graduation rates.

South Dakota State University was listed as one of the top-performing institutions in terms of exceeding expected six-year graduation rates, according to analysis of 368 colleges and universities done by The New York Times and the Urban Institute’s Center on Education Data and Policy. An article on the topic, The College Dropout Crisis, appeared in May 23 editions.

With incoming classes exceeding 2,000 full-time, first-year students, SDSU was ranked in the largest school category, which included public and private institutions. South Dakota State was expected to have a graduation rate of 69 percent but posted a rate of 74 percent. To create the expected graduation rates, student characteristics included various factors, including ACT or SAT scores.

“What this analysis shows is SDSU’s commitment to student success and that the programming and support systems we have put in place are having a positive impact on our students,” said Dennis Hedge, provost and vice president for academic affairs. “Our mission will always be to provide access to higher education for the people of South Dakota and beyond. Part of providing that access is doing everything in our power to help them be successful as they pursue their degrees and post-college dreams.”

The analysis compared colleges that enroll similar students, regardless of size and being a public or private status. The analysis counted students as graduates as long as they received a bachelor’s degree within six years of starting college, even if they ultimately graduated from a different college.

South Dakota State’s student success resources include recent enhancements to its student tutoring program, first-year advising center, writing center and academic success programs, in addition to areas that include student counseling and wellness.

“Impactful student success programs must be well-rounded,” Hedge said. “There is an academic component, which includes providing quality tutoring and advising services, but student success also requires overall physical and mental wellness. Expanding the Wellness Center, providing a high-level of counseling services, and working with students on nutrition and sleep habits while at college are all areas that benefit a student’s academic performance and overall personal well-being.”

In 2018, SDSU conferred 2,569 degrees with more than 77 percent of those being bachelor’s degrees. This May, more than 3,000 students were eligible to participate in graduation ceremonies, giving what university officials expect to be one of the largest graduating classes in the history of the university once all degrees are conferred.

Retention is measured from students who return from their first year to their second year. SDSU’s retention increased from 75 percent to 77.2 percent from 2013-18. As part of the university’s strategic plan, Imagine 2023, the goal is to increase retention to 80 percent by 2023.