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63 percent graduation rate is an institutional record and marks a 15-point jump from just five years ago.

TAMPA, Fl. (Jan. 17, 2013) - The University of South Florida has announced that its graduation rate has soared to an all-time record of 63 percent.

The six-year graduation rate of 63 percent is an accomplishment resulting from an unprecedented focus on student success, utilizing a number of new tools and strategies to ensure that USF students graduate on time, with low debt, prepared for productive careers or advanced education. The new rate marks a 15-point jump from just five years ago, when the number hovered at about 48 percent.

USF's announcement comes as the future of higher education is in the national spotlight. College and university presidents from across the country recently met at the White House to discuss several topics, including improved access and graduation rates.

In addition, Florida's Board of Governors has approved a new performance funding model aimed at rewarding the highest-achieving schools. One of the measures state universities will be judged on is graduation rates.

"Across the university, our No. 1 job is making sure our students have the skills, knowledge and experiences they need to graduate and succeed in life. The sooner we can open those doors for them, the better off they are. And as they graduate, more new crops of bright students are able to take advantage of the educational opportunities on campus to prepare them for their own successful careers," said Provost and Executive Vice President Ralph Wilcox.

USF's improvements from last year and during the past five years are among the highest in the country when compared to Association of American Universities (AAU) members. With these gains, USF continues to position itself for AAU membership.

Among that group, USF has the largest increase in the country when comparing fall 2006 to fall 2005. USF also has the third largest increase over the past five years, trailing only Ohio State University and Stony Brook University by one percent.

In 2009, USF launched a renewed focus on this issue, forming a university-wide task force to ensure USF maximized its dedication to student success. Innovative policies and practices were designed to raise graduation and retention rates, reduce student debt, increase student satisfaction with the university, accelerate progression to careers or post-graduate programs and make sure students leave USF with the skills and knowledge they need to succeed.

Those strategies included: expanding living and learning communities, requiring freshmen to live on campus, instituting a professional advising system, implementing a new degree audit system, redesigning courses to improve passing rates and learning outcome, expanding on-campus employment opportunities, opening a revolutionary new Science, Math, Technology, and Research Lab that provides state-of-the-art teaching technology to students, expanding study areas across campus, and making more tutors available.

"The six-year graduation rate jumped about 11 points in just two years, a phenomenal rate of growth that is undoubtedly one of the highest in the country," said Paul Dosal, USF's vice provost of Student Success. "Our student success efforts have transformed the entire university community. As such, our students achievements represent the achievements of everyone on campus. But our work is not done. We're now setting our sights on a 70 percent graduation rate. I'm certain everyone at USF will continue to do their part in achieving this important university priority."

USF continues to recruit and admit more academically prepared students than ever, with the most recent freshman class coming to the university with a record-high average high school GPA of 4.0.