Clemson University’s six-year graduation rate and freshman retention rate reached all-time highs in 2020, both far above the national mean at other four-year public universities.

On Tuesday, Dr. Robert Jones, executive vice president for Academic Affairs and provost, told the Board of Trustees’ Education Policy Committee 93.6 percent of Clemson freshmen stayed for their sophomore years in 2020, compared to just 75 percent nationally in 2018.

Graphic showing freshman retentionThe six-year graduation rate at Clemson has risen steadily from 81 percent five years ago to 84.9 percent in 2020, Jones said. Widely used among higher education institutions, the mean six-year rate among national public universities was just 50 percent in 2018.

“Our retention and graduation rates are truly some of the very best in the country for public universities and they have been steadily increasing over the past five years,” President Jim Clements said. “In terms of measuring student success these are very important measures of quality.”

Jones praised the faculty for their productivity in scholarly activity, research and service, especially during the pandemic, during which “they stood up and helped this institution and our students make it through one of the hardest challenges of their lives and in the life of this institution.”

Jones also presented the results of an analysis of undergraduate alumni earnings by Equifax. It showed Clemson alumni earned a median annual salary of $69,000 six years after graduation compared to $56,000 for alumni from peer universities.

Alumni from Clemson’s graduate programs had a median salary of $85,000 six years after graduation compared to $81,000 from peer universities.

Graphic showing 6-year graduation ratteSenior Associate Provost and Dean of Undergraduate Studies Dr. John Griffin told the trustees about the work that went into maintaining academic quality during the last eight months, when classes first were moved online due to COVID-19 to the blended online and in-person teaching in place now. A team of faculty and staff created an Instructional Playbook for Blended Learning, and it has been downloaded nearly 2,500 times.

“This model of higher education didn’t exist before the pandemic and we really have been a national leader at creating it and providing it to our instructors,” Griffin said. “The level of engagement we’re seeing in our classrooms, others are now emulating.”

Along with the academic update provided by Provost Jones and Dean Griffin, the committee voted to approve several new degree programs including:

  • A new Bachelor of Science in Human Capital Education and Development in the College of Education beginning in Fall Semester 2022.
  • A new Master of Science in Resilient Systems in the Graduate School beginning next fall. Students would learn to use data science to identify vulnerabilities in infrastructure systems. Jones said the COVID-19 pandemic is demonstrating there is high demand for these interdisciplinary skills.
  • A new concentration in Modern Languages added to Secondary Education degree programs.
  • A new Mathematical & Statistical Sciences Accelerated Collaborative Degree Program and partnership with South Carolina State University.

Additionally, the committee voted to approve the following program changes:

  • Adding specializations in health communication, strategic communication and media and technology studies to Bachelor of Arts in Communication and offering a senior capstone experience.
  • Modifying the Master of Science in Nursing and Doctor of Nursing Practice by embracing the national trend to replace the MS with the DNP degree.
  • Changing the delivery mode from in-person to hybrid for the Certificate in Engineering and Science Education.
  • Adding a certificate for Orthopaedic Medical Device Product Specialist to support the University’s partnership with Arthrex Inc.

In the final action item for the committee, approval was granted for the appointment of Dr. Lee Wilson to serve as Clemson’s representative on the South Carolina Commission of Archives and History.

The action items approved by the Education Policy Committee will now be forwarded to the full Board of Trustees.