Our primary mission at the University of Kansas is to educate students to become leaders in our state and world. As chancellor, nothing is more satisfying than the opportunity to visit with KU graduates who walked down the Hill and went on to prosperous careers and fulfilling lives.
Of course, in order for students to become successful graduates, we must offer an outstanding education and the support they need to progress through their courses of study. That’s why so much of our Bold Aspirations strategic plan focuses on energizing the undergraduate experience, with a specific focus on raising retention and graduation rates.
Our aspirations in this area are bold: Over the next decade, we aspire to a first-year retention rate of 90 percent and a six-year graduation rate of 70 percent. These ambitious targets are crucial to our drive to be recognized as a top-tier public research university and, more importantly, to ensuring our students succeed. As a result, these aspirations should be central to all of us, regardless of our role at the university.
Thanks to your tremendous efforts over the past two years, we’ve already implemented important new tools that will help more students graduate on-time. Collectively, these tools are designed to transform the academic experience, rethink the KU advising model, and remove unnecessary barriers to earning a degree.
For example, we’ve transformed how we recruit future Jayhawks and made KU more affordable with four-year renewable scholarships. We’ve overhauled general education for the first time in decades by establishing the KU Core, our first university-wide undergraduate curriculum, which incorporates classes and experiences to meet defined learning outcomes.
Our focus moving forward will be to build on these advances, add new ones, and meld them into a comprehensive plan for student progression and graduation. New tools will include redesigned courses that improve student learning, analytic tools that enable advisors to help students choose majors successfully and on schedule, and the elimination or simplification of policies that hamper student success.
Ann Cudd, vice provost and dean of undergraduate studies, will spearhead these efforts. But this must be a shared responsibility. We must all be committed to ensuring our students advance through their coursework and earn their degrees on-time.
As we all know, “90 percent” and “70 percent” aren’t simply numbers. They reflect the lives of thousands of students, each with hopes and dreams, many of whom encounter real challenges along the way. It’s up to each of us to create an environment in which students can overcome these challenges and receive a world-class education so that they are able to walk down the Hill at Commencement and go on to pursue successful careers and meaningful lives.