Given its high marks in Measuring Up 2004 on preparation and affordability, Utah does not perform as well as one might expect on measures of completion. Actual completion figures may be higher than the data would indicate given the fact that so many Utah students leave school for two years to fulfill missions for the LDS Church. However, the state does not collect specific data to show longer term persistence and completion rates, so it is difficult to tell exactly how the performance on this measure would change if the missionary factor were taken into consideration.
We do know that while Utah is at the very top in the state rankings in terms of numbers completing high school, it is just above the national average in terms of the percentage of the population with a bachelor's degree or higher: Twenty-seven percent of Utah adults have a bachelor's degree or higher, ranking 17th among the 50 states and the District of Columbia, and just above the national average of 25.9.24
According to Measuring Up 2004, Utah has been one of the fastest improving states over the past decade in terms of the proportion of students completing certificates and degrees relative to those enrolled. Of concern, however, is that the completion rate gap has widened between Caucasians and members of ethnic minority groups. Hispanic students are only three-quarters as likely to complete a degree as their white counterparts.25
Institutional level data does indicate that a significant number of students take seven or more years to complete their degrees: At Weber State University, for example, for the cohort of first-time freshmen in 1990-1991, 29% of students had completed a degree within six years; now, after more than 10 years, 50% of that cohort has completed a degree.26 At Utah State University, efforts have been made to improve the six-year graduation rate, which has increased from 41% (1992 cohort) to 57% (1997 cohort) as a result of specific efforts by the institution to move students through to completion more effectively.27
See U.S. Bureau of the Census, Ranking Tables 2002. http://www.census.gov/acs/www/products/ranking/2002/R02T040.htm and http://www.census.gov/acs.www/products/ranking/2002/R13T040.htm (January 22, 2004).
Measuring Up 2004: Utah, p. 10.
Weber State University graduation rates are drawn from the Weber State University Office of Institutional Research Web site, Table 9, Graduation Rates for Full-time First-Time Freshmen 1987-88 Through 1995-96. http://departments.weber.edu/ir/3t09.htm (February 26, 2004).
Utah State University graduation rates are from USU institutional research Web site, http://aaa.lib.usu.edu/FactsFigures/RetentionGraduation.htm (March 10, 2004). Efforts to improve graduation rates at USU were explained during interview process.