WSU leader sets goal of graduating students in 4 years

Kim Kozlowski
The Detroit News

Detroit — Wayne State University President M. Roy Wilson called Tuesday for the school and students to commit to a goal of graduating in four years, despite historically having one of the worst six-year graduation rates in Michigan.

Calling the six-year graduation rate improving but still “unacceptable” at 32 percent, Wilson said the aim is not to achieve better national rankings or more state funding but to prepare a diverse student body to thrive.

“We do this because every student deserves the opportunity to obtain the best of a college education,” Wilson said. “Every student deserves the opportunity to aspire and to achieve excellence — the type of excellence that is part of the value system of Wayne State. Every student deserve the opportunity to thrive regardless of their family wealth or the circumstances in which they were born.”

Wilson made the call during his third annual university address, where he touched on the university’s 2016-21 strategic plan, which included themes of collaboration, innovation, excellence, diversity and inclusion, and integrity.

He pointed to numerous signs of progress at the university, including a 16.9 percent increase in freshman enrollment over the previous year and a rise in research funding to $150.3 million. In addition, student housing is at capacity with waiting lists for dorm beds and retention rates are at their highest level in 16 years.

Within two years, Wilson said he wants WSU and students to make a commitment to graduate in four years — as opposed to six years. He promised that WSU will do its part to help them along the way by ensuring that advisers and required classes will be available, and more.

“Students do their part and Wayne State does its part,” Wilson said. “One student at a time, every student counts.”

Wayne State still has the lowest six-year graduation rate among the state’s public universities, according to the National Center on Education Statistics, which collects data to reflect the graduation rate of first-time, full-time undergraduate students at four-year institutions.

In Michigan, five of 15 public universities exceed the national average of 59 percent.

The top five include the University of Michigan, with a 90 percent graduation rate, followed by Michigan State University, with a 78 percent rate. The other universities with graduation rates at or above the national average are Grand Valley State University, 70 percent, Michigan Technological University, 66 percent, and Central Michigan University, 59 percent.

Wayne State’s four-year graduation rate is 11 percent. Just two of the state’s public universities graduate at least half of students in four years: the University of Michigan, at 76 percent, and Michigan State, at 50 percent.

WSU upgrades student center

The Wayne State University Student Center officially reopened Tuesday after a $26.5 million overhaul. School officials marked the event with a ribbon-cutting ceremony, ice cream social and building tours. Nearly 125,000 square feet was renovated to provide a more modern, expansive and student-friendly atmosphere. Renovation of the 45-year-old facility was done in two phases, starting in May 2014 and ending last month.