​DePaul’s current four-year graduation rate matches last year’s record, at 56 percent for the class that entered four years ago (2009). The six-year graduation rate of 70 percent is a record high for DePaul, and that rate is greater than would be statistically predicted by U.S. News & World Report rankings.* Our first-year retention rates are consistently high.

The latest data, released in November 2013 from DePaul’s Institutional Research & Market Analytics (IRMA) group, reveal the following overall trends:
  • DePaul’s first-year retention rate has been slowly increasing over the past 15 years and has exceeded 85 percent since 2008.
  • DePaul’s four-year graduation rate (56 percent) has increased steadily, gaining 13 percentage points over the last six years’ cohorts.
  • DePaul’s six-year graduation rate (70 percent) has slowly increased over the past 15 years and rose by more than two percentage points from 2012 to 2013.

The average five-year graduation rate for a four-year, private institution in the U.S. is 58 percent—a rate that has been steady over the past 10 years (source: ACT). DePaul’s rate has been increasing and now stands at 10 percentage points higher than the average.

DePaul’s approach to retention strategy is described in an innovative framework to improve student outcomes, the 4 Ps of Student Retention: Profile, Progress, Process and Promise. By focusing on the 4 Ps, an institution can positively impact overall retention and graduation rates.
Profile: Retention and graduation rates largely correlate with the institutional and student profile, including academic, financial and demographic characteristics; shaping that profile improves these outcomes. The DePaul student profile is being reshaped in ways that contribute to improved retention outcomes, including new curricula in the health sciences, which are in demand among high-performing students. 
Progress: Improved retention requires the continuous cultivation, support and measurement of student progress to degree completion. DePaul is increasing its focus on practices that enable student academic progress and performance, particularly in the first year. These include clarifying and reinforcing optimum course scheduling and providing enhanced advising and degree progress tools to help ensure a “completion-oriented” undergraduate experience.
Process: The right processes and policies enable continuous enrollment. Here, the focus is on high-risk processes rather than at-risk persons, since the objective is an improved experience for all students. Examples include DePaul Central (a one-stop service center for student records, financial aid and student accounts) and Financial Fitness (a program to help students manage their personal resources).
Promise: Students enroll at a college or university expecting it to live up to its brand promise. The key to institutional improvement is ensuring that promise becomes the reality of each student’s educational experience, in and out of the classroom. Examples at DePaul include the Chicago Quarter program, which engages freshmen in a Chicago-immersion course; the Junior Year Experiential Learning requirement; the DePaul Online Teaching Series; and expanded programs for students of color.
The 4 Ps framework is explained in depth in “Reframing Retention Strategy for Institutional Improvement” (2013), a collection of essays, most by DePaul faculty and staff members, including David Kalsbeek, senior vice president for Enrollment Management and Marketing and the book’s editor; Brian Spittle, assistant vice president for Access and Attainment; Carla Cortes, project manager for the Division of Enrollment Management and Marketing; and Caryn Chaden, associate vice president for Academic Affairs and associate professor of English. It was published by Jossey-Bass as part of the series "New Directions for Higher Education," which provides decision-makers timely information and authoritative advice about issues and problems confronting every institution.
In addition, a paper by Kalsbeek and Cortes, “Improving Outcomes through the 4 Ps of Student Retention Framework,” won the best practices award at the National Symposium on Student Retention conference in early November. For more information, visit http://www.depaul.edu/emm/StudentRetention/4Ps.asp

Close-up views
Here are some close-up views from IRMA of DePaul’s retention and graduation rates.


By first-year academic performance:

  • Students who complete the first year with a 2.5 or higher GPA and 48 or more credit hours persist into the second year at a rate above 90 percent.
  • Students with this level of performance in their first year graduate in four years at a rate of 72 percent, compared with only 28 percent for those who do not (based on the 2009 freshman cohort).
By gender:
  • In 2012, the first-year retention rate for males is 87 percent, compared with 84 percent for females.
  • Six-year graduation rates for males (69 percent) and females (72 percent) increased over the prior years’ cohort by 3.1 and 1.8 percentage points, respectively. 
By race:
  • In 2012, Caucasian students had the highest four-year graduation rate at 61 percent, and this rate has increased steadily for the past six years.
  • The proportion of African-American students graduating within six years has risen significantly, increasing from 46 percent of the 2000 cohort to 64 percent of the most recent graduating cohort (2007), an 18 percentage point gain.
  • The six year-graduation rates of both Hispanic/Latino and Asian students have increased this year over last, from 60 percent to 68 percent for Hispanic/Latino students and 69 percent to 72 percent for Asian students.

Although there are persistent gaps in retention and graduation rates by gender, race/ethnicity and income across higher education, gaps at DePaul are smaller than what is typical; students at higher risk tend to do very well at DePaul.

* Note:  Federally reported retention and graduation rates track only first-time, full-time freshmen; they do not include students who transfer into or out of an institution.