Analyzing UW-Madison’s Accountability Report

Recent legislative changes required the University of Wisconsin-Madison to submit an annual accountability report summarizing the university’s accomplishments over the previous year. While the UW System and UW-Madison already do a commendable job of making basic performance data public, this year’s accountability report nicely summarizes the performance data. A few highlights are below:

–The retention and graduation rates (for first-time, full-time students) are very high, as they should be given students’ academic and financial resources. Nearly 94% of students returned for a second year and 83% graduated within six years using the most recent data available. The retention and graduation rates are lower for targeted minority students (91% and 69%, respectively), but the gap is not nearly as large at UW-Madison as at many other universities.

–Just over half (52%) of all undergraduate students filed the FAFSA in 2011. Of these students, the median family income was just over $99,000. Given that most students who do not file the FAFSA and enroll in a selective college come from high-income families, the median family income of UW-Madison undergraduates is likely well in excess of $100,000 per year. This report does not include retention and graduation rates by Pell Grant receipt, but other UW-Madison data reports do.

–Roughly eight in ten students reported being able to enroll in desired classes most or all of the time (using data from the National Survey of Student Engagement). This is an improvement of roughly ten percentage points in the past five years, but more still needs to be done.

–ECON 101 (principles of microeconomics) was taken by 2,831 students in fall 2010 or spring 2011. That number makes me glad that I am no longer a TA for that course!

–UW-Madison claims an impact of $12.4 billion on the Wisconsin economy and creates or supports over 128,000 jobs. I am skeptical of those numbers, but the impact is clearly large. (But the question remains—what can we be doing better with our available funds?)

The accountability report for the rest of the UW System is available here.

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About Robert

I am an assistant professor of higher education at Seton Hall University. All opinions are my own.
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