UW-Madison undergrads taking less time to complete degrees

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MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) -- Undergraduates are taking less time to complete their degrees at UW-Madison.

New numbers released Monday from the university’s Office of Academic Planning and Institutional Research shows the average time to receive a bachelor’s degree was 3.96 calendar years. It set a record on measuring student success at UW-Madison.

The university began tracking the measure in the 1980’s and the 2018-19 school year was the first time the number has dropped below four years.

"This is excellent news for Wisconsin families concerned about the cost of higher education," said UW-Madison Chancellor Rebecca Blank. "We know that students who take longer than four years often accrue additional debt. It is our goal that as many undergraduates as possible complete their program of studies in four years."

Time-to-degree is calculated on all students who graduate in a given year, regardless of when they started. The time-to-degree for 2017-18 graduates was 4.01 calendar years; for 2016-17 graduates, it was 4.03.

"This has been a concerted, campus-wide effort over many years and involving many facets, tools and programs," said Provost John Karl Scholz. "It's a group effort with everyone pulling in the same direction so that students have the resources they need to graduate - and to do so in a timely manner."

Other data from the university was also released.


  • The four-year graduation rate for students who entered as new freshmen in 2015 rose to 69.3 percent. The previous year was 66.9 percent.

  • The six-year graduation rate for freshmen entering the university in 2013 rose slightly to 87.6 percent from 87.4 percent.

  • The freshmen-to-sophomore retention rate is 95.2 percent, the seventh consecutive year the figure has been above 95 percent.

  • The university conferred a record 7,129 bachelor's degrees in 2018-19.

New financial aid options like Bucky’s Tuition Promise, now in its second year, also are expected to increase time-to-degree.