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Student Achievement

The WKU 2018-2028 Strategic Plan, Climbing to Greater Heights, focuses on student success. Today the college experience can begin in the early teenage years or not until much later in life. In 2018, WKU’s youngest student was 10 years of age and the eldest 80 years old. Students may come to WKU full-time or part-time from around the corner or around the world. Regardless of age or walks-of-life or origin, WKU is committed to serving all students in their development as global citizens.

One of the goals of the Strategic Plan is to ensure WKU student completion and success. Over the past ten years, the 4-year graduation rate for undergraduates at WKU has increased nearly 100% from 21.9% in 2008-9 to 40.1% in 2018-19. The six-year graduation is over 53%. WKU student athletes have an 85% graduation rate. The 2018-19 first-time, full-time student retention rate of students at WKU is 72.9%. From Kentucky employment statistics, 52% of WKU baccalaureate degree earners were employed in Kentucky five years after graduation. Some three-quarters of undergraduates and one-third of graduate students attend WKU on a full-time basis, but even many of these students are employed to some degree while enrolled. WKU works diligently with students to find the appropriate work-school-life balance so students can obtain their degrees and pursue their aspirations. Complete metrics are housed on the Strategic Plan web site.

The four metric directly related to Student Achievement included:

  • Increase the number of freshmen, sophomores, and juniors progressing to the next classification or graduating during the academic year,
  • Increase the first-to-second year retention of first-time, full-time baccalaureate degree-seeking students,
  • Increase the six-year graduation of first-time, full-time (FTFY) baccalaureate degree- seeking students, and
  • Increase the number of graduate and professional degrees awarded during an academic year.

The targets set for these metrics were derived U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, and the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS). Calculations included the projected in “enrollment cliff” by 2025, which resulted is a predicted slower incremental growth patterns. WKU's accreditor, the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC), has directed all colleges and universities in the southern region to provide information to the public regarding our goals for student achievement and the extent to which we attain them. Below are WKU's outcomes, performance criteria and most recent results along with links to reports that show more detailed information. For comments or questions about this information, contact Dr. Molly Kerby , Assitant Provost for Institutional Effectiveness (molly.kerby@wku.edu) in the Office of the Provost. Table 1 is a breakdown of the strategic metrics related to Student Achievement though 2027-28.

Table 1: WKU Retention and Graduation Rates (TOTAL)

Performance Metrics






WKU Strat Plan Goal


6-Year FTFY Graduation Rate







1st-2nd Year FTFY Retention







Persistence Rate

•  FR: 2,051

•  SO: 2,207

•  JR: 2,802

•  FR:2,055

•  SO 2,194

•  JR: 2,727

•  FR: 1,982

•  SO: 2,194

•  JR: 2,795

•  FR: 2,154

•  SO: 2,317

•  JR: 2,942

•  FR: 2,051

•  SO: 2,207

•  JR: 2,802

•  FR: 2,055

•  SO: 2,194

•  JR: 2,727

Number of graduate and professional degrees awarded during an academic year







*Data not included in WKU Strategic Plan


In order to meet these goals, the Assurance of Student Learning (ASL) assessment team collects data from all academic majors and certificate programs. The  ASL team measures acheivement by assessing Student Learning Outcomes (SLOs), setting targets for success, implementing follow-up actions, and by closing the loop each year with the intent of setting new goals after each cycle.

WKU experience their learning actively through a variety of creative activities and research projects. For example, in the past year over 40 students worked on research funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) through the Kentucky Biomedical Research Infrastructure Network (KBRIN).  This includes students from Biology, Chemistry, Physics, Psychological Sciences, and Kinesiology Recreation and Sport. The 2019 Student Research Conference showcased work in nearly 300 oral and poster presentations by undergraduate and graduate students. The WKU Forensics Team continues to garner recognition and awards through their achievements at national and international competitions.

WKU strives to enroll a diverse student body and prepare the for a career and life in a global context. As of 2018-19, ten percent of WKU graduates have participated in a study away or study abroad program, and WKU is working to double that percentage in the next ten years. Approximately 19% of the first-time first-year students in fall 2018 were black, Hispanic, or self-declared as two or more races. Three percent of students were international and 19% from out-of-state (and all 50 states were represented!). WKU students have been highly successful at receiving numerous prestigious awards including Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarships, Fulbright Grants, Critical Language Scholarships, and the Barry M. Goldwater Scholarships and Honorable Mentions, to name a few. Such awards facilitate opportunities for WKU students to travel, learn, and collaborate across the globe.

WKU offers over 100 Graduate Programs and our graduate students play an integral role in research, creative activities, and instruction. Graduate students can serve as bridge mentors between undergraduates and faculty in scholarly endeavors, initiators of new creative directions, teaching assistants, conduits to the community, and in general, energetic facilitators of learning.

Western Kentucky University is a student-centered institution, and WKU current students and alumni are making positive contributions to society from the local to global scale.

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 Last Modified 1/20/21