Stony Brook University President Samuel L. Stanley Jr. delivered his...

Stony Brook University President Samuel L. Stanley Jr. delivered his annual State of the University address Wednesday at the university's Staller Center. Credit: Daniel Goodrich

Stony Brook University's efforts to retain and graduate students on time are paying off, with 62 percent in the class of 2018 graduating in four years, university President Samuel L. Stanley Jr. announced Wednesday.

“This is good news, and this is the result of a tremendous amount of hard work across the board,” Stanley said in giving his 2018 State of the University address.

About 600 students, faculty members, university administrators and local and state lawmakers attended the speech, held at the Staller Center for the Arts' Main Stage.

Stanley touched on a number of topics, including the more than 26,000-student university’s growing enrollment, diversity and inclusion initiatives; fundraising successes; the budget; and increased efforts to raise graduation rates.

In 2018, the public university had 7,272 students graduate — 4,435 students earned bachelor’s degrees, 1,962 earned master’s, 584 earned doctoral degrees and 291 earned graduate certificates, Stanley said.

The four-year undergraduate graduation rate for students who entered school in the fall of 2014 and graduated by Aug. 31, 2018, was 62 percent, up from 45 percent for those who graduated in 2011 having entered in 2007, according to university data. Universities use four-year cohorts to measure completion rates because it typically takes four years to finish most bachelor's degree programs.

Stony Brook is basing its progress on the cohort that graduated in 2011 — before Stanley attended a summit at the White House in 2014 and made the commitment to raise the four-year graduation rate to 60 percent and close the gap between male and female graduates, according to the university.

The six-year graduation rate for those who entered in the fall of 2012 and graduated this year was 74 percent, up from the 67.3 percent of students who graduated in 2011 having entered in 2005.

Data are not yet available from the 2017-18 school year for the 64-campus state university system. The four-year graduation rate SUNY-wide for the cohort of students who began in 2009 is 50.5 percent, and the six-year graduation rate for those who started in 2010 is 68.6 percent, according to the most recent available SUNY data.

Stanley attributed the rise in Stony Brook's graduation rates to a number of initiatives, including “Finish in 4." The university in 2015 began implementing the program, which focuses on increasing support and communications with students. For example, staff members work to identify students who miss important deadlines or are falling behind and reach out to them to get them back on track.

The university in 2015 also began implementing the "Finish in 4" grant program, providing funds to students in financial need who may have otherwise not graduated on time, Stanley said. The program provided $200,000 to 54 students, nearly all of whom graduated on time, he said.

“We want to continue to build on this momentum, but it’s going to be important to work very hard to continue to find the resources to support this very important program,” Stanley said.

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