RICHMOND, Ky. (WTVQ) – The four-year graduation rate at Eastern Kentucky University continues its steady rise, and has now more than doubled in an eight-year span.
EKU says that roughly one in three students from the Fall 2014 freshman cohort graduated in four years. The 32.7 percent record is up from 29.98 just a year ago and well above the 15.67 mark for the 2006 freshman cohort, according to just-released figures. The five-year graduation rate has leveled off at approximately 45 percent, up from 33 percent in 2005; the six-year rate is at approximately 51 percent, up from 49 percent a year ago and 38 percent for the 2004 freshman cohort.
The university says the academic quality of Eastern’s freshman classes, as measured by high school GPA and ACT scores, continues to reach record highs each fall. The average GPA for all degree-seeking freshmen increased from 3.33 in 2014 to 3.5 this fall, while the average ACT Composite score for the same group jumped from 22.9 to 23.8 in the same time frame.
In 2015, the university introduced a revamped merit scholarship model, accompanied by a larger financial investment and giving equal weight to ACT and SAT scores and high school GPA. Approximately 40 percent of EKU freshmen receive a merit-based scholarship. The number of freshmen requiring a remedial “bridge” program dropped by almost 33 percent from 2017 to 2018.
Other additions in recent years include a Freshman Academy for Diverse Students, as well as a comparable program for juniors and seniors; a Student Success Center that targets under-represented minorities and first-generation college students; and a First Colonels program also tailored to first-generation students, who constitute more than 40 percent of the EKU student body.
The university’s recently instituted SMART (Selective Merit Aid/Reduced Tuition) Program will save eligible out-of-state undergraduates more than $8,000 in annual out-of-state tuition costs. To be eligible for the SMART Program, students must meet certain academic requirements and reside in one of the following states: Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Missouri, Mississippi, Michigan, Maryland, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia, or Washington, D.C.
The university recently announced another change to its merit scholarship model. Starting in Fall 2019, Kentucky students with at least an ACT composite score of 21 and a unweighted GPA of 3.0 will earn a merit award at EKU. The new model has eight award tiers starting at $2,000 and topping out at $16,000 for students scoring at the top of the calculated index. Students who reside on campus will receive the full amount of their award, or 25 percent less when they are eligible and choose to live off campus.