WSU graduation rates soar as new students matriculate

September 20, 2017

Buoyed by a wide range of new and traditional student support initiatives, the number of new Wayne State University students has increased for the fourth straight year. Detroit’s major research university welcomed more than 7,000 new students to campus this fall. The number of first-time students is up, including jumps of 19 and 15 percent for African American freshmen and Detroit freshmen, respectively. Transfer students were also up 1 percent.  

“We are demonstrating to students that if they’re admitted, we’re committed to their success once they are on campus by providing a breadth of support services,” said Dawn Medley, associate vice president for enrollment management. “More and more, Wayne State is becoming a school of choice.”

That support system is also translating into a rapidly rising graduation rate. During his University Address on Sept. 12, WSU President M. Roy Wilson announced that the six-year graduation rate for the 2011 cohort jumped 8 percentage points to 47 percent.   

In the previous few years, WSU’s graduation rate had been steadily improving two or three percentage points each year, and Wayne State has ranked among the top 5 percent of public colleges and universities nationwide.

Wilson also noted in his address that the six-year graduation rate of African American students has jumped 13 percentage points to 20 percent in the last six years, a statistic that has also earned national recognition. Additionally, the graduation rate for first-generation students is up 11 percent, and the graduation rate for students who receive Pell grants is up 15 percent in just three years.  

A key goal in the university’s strategic plan is to increase its overall enrollment to 30,000 students by 2021. Schools and colleges with the largest overall growth this fall are the Mike Ilitch School of Business (up 9.1 percent) and the College of Nursing (up 8.7 percent). Other noteworthy increases include the College of Fine, Performing and Communication Arts, which saw a 28 percent increase in first-time undergraduate students, up from 203 students in 2016 to 260 this year.

Due to increasing demand to live on campus, student housing remains full, with more than 3,100 students living in residence halls and apartments. Once again, the university has students in temporary housing on campus and in the nearby Hotel St. Regis. When the school year began, 60 students were housed at the hotel, but all are expected to move into on-campus accommodations by the end of the month.

Students’ academic credentials also remain strong. This year’s freshmen class has an average GPA of 3.37 and an average ACT of 24.

“I can’t think of a better time to attend Wayne State, given the strength of our academic programs, our supportive services and our financial packages, which make Wayne State among the most affordable universities in Michigan,” said Ericka Jackson, director of undergraduate admissions. “We live our mission every day.”

Wayne State’s enrollment and student success accomplishments are the result of a team effort out of the Office of the Provost, which has unveiled several new initiatives to keep the momentum rolling. For example, new programs to provide students with financial support include:

  • The Wayne Access Award launched in December for incoming freshmen and will cover up to the full cost of tuition and standard fees (matriculation, registration and student service fees) at the in-state rate minus federal, state and other university-based aid. The award is renewable for up to four years if the student is on track to graduate.
  • The program allows prospective students to earn scholarships from Wayne State, ranging from $150 to $3,000 based on their accomplishments in high school. Eligible students can start earning microscholarships in the ninth grade for achievements such as maintaining a GPA above 3.5, completing an AP course and visiting WSU’s campus.
  • The WSU Generation Next fee waiver will alleviate the requirement for first-generation students to pay the $25 undergraduate application fee.

"We are moving the needle forward in creating a 21st century university that has a more active campus life, academic programs that engage students, the support students need to excel and opportunities that lead to great jobs after graduation,” said Provost Keith E. Whitfield. “There are even more exciting things coming to the university in the next few years. We really are a destination for students who want to use college to create a great career path."