Student Achievement and Success

The University of Mary Washington considers the provision of “high quality instruction” as its most important function. Consequently, UMW sets goals for student achievement and measures student success with respect to these goals. As a public liberal arts and sciences institution focused primarily on undergraduate students, UMW uses the following measures: (1) first-time, full-time fall to fall retention rate, (2) six-year graduation rate, (3) six-year completion rate, (4) career outcome rate six months after graduation.

The table below identifies the measure, the University’s aspirational goal, the cohort or class by which the UMW expects to realize this goal, and the threshold of acceptability.

Measure Current rate Aspirational Goal Timetable Threshold of Acceptability
Retention 83%

(Fall 2020 Cohort)

87% Fall 2023 Cohort ≥ 80%
6-Year Graduation 65%

(Fall 2014 Cohort)

73% Fall 2022 Cohort ≥ 63%
6-Year Completion 80%

(Fall 2014 Cohort)

83% Fall 2023 Cohort ≥ 75%
Career Outcome 93%

(Class of 2021)

95% Class of 2027 ≥ 85%

Further information about these measures, multi-year trends, and how the University uses them to set goals and evaluate its success can be found in the discussion below.

Goal 1: Retention

One measure of student success and achievement can be seen in the first-time, full-time retention rate. This is the percentage of full-time students who start in the fall and return to UMW the following fall. UMW’s retention rates have been historically strong and compare well to other public liberal arts and sciences universities which UMW considers peers.

Retention of First-Time, Full-Time Students to the Second Year 
Fall Term Retained Cohort (# in class previous fall) # Retained Rate
2011 950 807 85%
2012 954 796 83%
2013 937 750 80%
2014 927 723 78%
2015 840 687 82%
2016 951 785 83%
2017 935 783 84%
2018 932 760 82%
2019 920 737 80%
2020 874 694 79%
Source: Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System

Goal 2: Graduation

A second measure of student success and achievement can be seen in the percent of undergraduate students who complete their degree within 6 years. While the majority of UMW students graduate within four years, the six-year graduation rate is a commonly used measure of success. Again, UMW’s six-year graduate rates have been historically strong and compare well to other public liberal arts and sciences universities which UMW considers peers.

6-Year Graduation Rates
Cohort Year Enrolled Completion Date Total 6-Year Rate
2005 2011 71%
2006 2012 76%
2007 2013 74%
2008 2014 73%
2009 2015 70%
2010 2016 72%
2011 2017 71%
2012 2018 66%
2013 2019 65%
2014 2020 65%
Source: Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System

Goal 3: Completion

Not all students who start at UMW finish their degree here. Some complete a degree elsewhere, and they do so for different reasons including the decision to pursue a degree or field of study that UMW does not offer. Exit interviews and data collected from the National Student Clearinghouse (NSC) provide important insights about the reasons that students leave. The most significant reasons are financial, academic preparation, and health or family concerns. The six-year completion rate collected from NSC provides important information about the impact of the UMW experience on future success irrespective of whether or not they complete here. At approximately 80%, UMW’s six-year overall completion rate for those who start here and complete a degree anywhere is quite strong and is ahead of other similarly sized public liberal arts and sciences universities which UMW considers peers.

6-Year Completion Rates for Students who Started at UMW 
Cohort Completion Date Total Enrolled Full-Time UMW Completion Rate Total Completion Rate National Total Completion Benchmark National Completion at Same Institution Benchmark
2012 2018 841 62.50% 79.20% 65.70% 54.50%
2013 2019 837 65.70% 81.90% 66.70% 55.80%
2014 2020 753 62.60% 79.20% 66.60% 56.60%
3-year Average 63.60% 80.10% 66.60% 55.60%
Source: National Student Clearinghouse (NSC) Student Tracker Postsecondary Completions

Goal 4: Career Outcome

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, is the answer to the question “do UMW graduates get jobs?” The career outcome rate represents the percent of students who are employed, in graduate school, or are engaged in full-time service (military, Peace Corps, etc.) six months after graduation. It is calculated according to the standards set forth by the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) and offers some opportunities for benchmarking. UMW has been measuring the career outcome rate since 2015 and has observed an average 90% career outcome rate over this period. Although benchmarking against specific institutions is not possible because career outcome rates are not published by institution in IPEDS, it is possible to understand how UMW performs relative to other types of institutions in NACE’s annual First Destination annual reports. With few exceptions, UMW’s career outcome rate has been higher than other institutions.

Career Outcome Rate – First Destination Survey 
Grad Year # Graduates # Reporting Knowledge Rate Career Outcome Rate
2015 990 732 74% 95%
2016 1005 755 75% 93%
2017 969 778 80% 92%
2018 931 799 86% 83%
2019 1051 944 90% 89%
2020 1114 758 68% 90%
2021 1049 728 69% 93%
Source: UMW Office of Institutional Analysis and Effectiveness, First Destination Survey


This page is published in accordance with the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC) public disclosure policy. It is updated as new data is confirmed or published. Further information about UMW is available from the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia (SCHEV) and the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System. Questions about the information on this page should be directed to the Associate Provost for Institutional Analysis and Effectiveness.