To&Through In Action: Improving College Graduation at the University of Illinois at Chicago


In 2012, the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC)— a public, urban, research university serving over 27,000 students —had a six-year graduation rate of 57 percent. This rate had nearly doubled over the preceding 17 years from 31 percent in 1998. The Chancellor of UIC launched a planning process aimed at continuing to increase student success with the immediate goal of raising UIC’s graduation rate to 65 percent and retention rate to 85 percent with racial and ethnic parity. Over 200 faculty, staff, and students serving on eight task forces conducted research and submitted recommendations, outlined in a “Student Success Plan,” to meet these goals. 


  • Dedicated staff from Academic Affairs and Student Affairs serve as strategic leaders of the overarching Student Success Initiative and ensure coordination across the school’s nine undergraduate-serving colleges, all of which are responsible for their own admissions and advising. Other key partners include support units (athletics, career services, etc.), student cultural and affinity groups, and external nonprofit organizations.
  • Several of the University’s highly enrolled first-year courses have an “early alert” protocol so that an instructor who is concerned about any aspect of student performance can alert the students’ advisors. A new data system also allows coaches from nonprofit partners to access and monitor data on students’ grades and financial aid status.
  • UIC is exploring how students’ noncognitive factors relate to the challenges they face and the supports they need. A noncognitive survey showed promising links between noncognitive factors, grades, credit accumulation, and retention. Efforts have since been aimed at creating indexes of student strengths and challenges that map to interventions around noncognitive factors such as academic mindsets, perseverance, and time management.
  • UIC and Chicago Public Schools are partnering to use To&Through data to identify high schools that have large numbers of college-ready students who ultimately do not attend.  Students from these partner schools receive transition coaching support while in high school, and those who enroll continue to be supported at UIC.


  • The outcome of the task forces led to a number of prioritized projects of which 20 have been initiated and 9 have been completed. New projects continue to be introduced at UIC. 
  • In 2015, over 2,100 alerts were initiated by instructors for students enrolled in first-year courses.
  • A prematriculation inventory was implemented starting with the 2015 first-year cohort to assess students’ noncognitive strengths. 
  • Due to the early success of the transition coaching program with students attending two CPS high schools, UIC has created partnerships with additional high schools.