Utah Valley University - 2017

Utah Valley University’s entrance sign is pictured before Utah Valley University’s 76th Commencement Ceremony on Thursday, May 4, 2017, in Orem.

Although they continue to enroll at lower rates than men, women are completing degrees at Utah Valley University at a higher percentage than their male counterparts, according to one federal report.

Overall, about 35% of first-time, four-year degree seeking UVU students in the 2010-2018 cohort completed their degrees, according to information from the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System, also known as IPEDS.

Rates were the highest for Caucasian students, who make up 78.3% of the UVU student body and had a completion rate of 39%. Women were the second-highest performing group, consisting of 46% of the student body with a completion rate of 37%.

Making up about 2.3% of the student body, “non-resident aliens,” which are defined as out-of-state students, according to Kyle Reyes, UVU’s vice president of student affairs, had a completion rate of 35%. Men, making up 54% of the student body, had the fourth-highest completion rate, at 34%.

Women’s completion rates are the culmination of a decade of work, said Tara Ivie, the senior director of the Women’s Success Center at UVU. Ivie said it takes six to eight years to see evidence that an initiative is changing a completion rate.

“I am always pleased to see the improvements,” Ivie said.

She said the Women’s Success Center was started due to historically low enrollment and completion among UVU’s female students. The center focuses on support, community outreach and engagement and faculty research on the student experience in order to better tailor support.

While the IPEDS data shows that women are outperforming men, Ivie said the data is not the complete picture. When looking at degree completion on all levels, she said women are still completing their programs at lower degrees than men.

“You can’t look at one data point and say yes, women are doing better than men,” Ivie said. “As we look at the big picture, they aren’t.”

Ivie said only about 20% of UVU’s science, technology, engineering and math majors are women, and that as a state, Utah still ranks low when it comes to women’s completion.

She’s thrilled to see change.

“We are definitely seeing progress, but we are not done,” Ivie said. “We are not where we need to be.”

Students of color continue to finish their programs at much lower percentages than their white counterparts, with racial minorities at completion rates more than 10 percentage points below white students. Of the 2010-2018 cohort, 29% of Asian students, 27% of Latino students, 23% of multiracial students, 18% of Pacific Islanders/Native Hawaiians and 16% African Americans completed their degrees.

It’s a completion gap that UVU is paying attention to.

“It is a major concern,” Reyes said.

The university has seen increases in its number of students and faculty of color. The university’s enrollment of students of color increased 110% since 2009, and it saw a 112% increase in faculty of color since 2009, according to the university’s 2017 Inclusion and Diversity Annual Report.

The completion numbers from the IPEDS report will be used to help shape the university’s Vision 2030 plan, which will be used to help the university navigate through the upcoming years.

“These data are informing our actions moving forward,” Reyes said.

He said the university has a goal to achieve a 45% completion rate by 2025, but that it ultimately wants every student who enrolls to graduate.

“This is definitely an area where we have to say we have to do better,” he said.

Reyes also pointed out that the IPEDS data does not show the full picture of UVU and does not include students pursuing an associate degree or certificate.

If the university were to implement a basic ACT or GPA requirement in an attempt to raise its completion rate, Reyes said it would eliminate about 1,500 students that UVU would have admitted last year. The university has an enrollment of about 40,000 students, which includes high school students in concurrent enrollment programs.