College Completion Summit 2019 – Welcome


This is an audio recap of the College Completion Summit hosted by the University of Utah and the Lumina Foundation.

On September 30 and October 1, 2019, the College Completion Summit brought together presidents and senior leaders from public universities that have significantly advanced their college completion rates.

University of Utah president Ruth Watkins opens the summit.

Ruth Watkins:

We are so glad to host you here at the University of Utah. This is an opportunity for us to learn about practices that have been effective at our institutions, and to think about how we can take the next steps in our journey of really transforming lives by ensuring that every student who comes to our institution leaves with the degree they came for.

Collectively, our institutions serve almost 800,000 students. So if we look over the last decade, the median graduation rate at our institutions was 51% six year graduation rate in 2008. The most recent snapshot, the median graduation rate, 70%. And if we want to talk about how do we make that number 80 percent? We ought to share information with each other about how to produce that kind of change. So that’s what we’re up to.

I think it has been a very consistent message that we wanted to help our students succeed. There are many people in this room that have been a key part of that change, but I want to actually credit everyone in this institution for joining in this important mission. I think the way you welcome students, greet students, whatever role you’re in, the way you help students see connections, possibilities, and the way they belong makes a difference in student success. Everybody is in. As an institution, we have been very much all in, in this effort.

I think beginning to simplify the signals for success, to begin to think about clusters of areas like engagement, like academic signals. To really simplify the signals for success will be a key to making this work. I hope we can talk a little bit about things that are emerging in your work about automating programs and interventions that have students participate, rather than waiting for people to elect them because I think we lose people along the way. And as I look at institutions that have driven change pretty successfully, there has been continuity in leadership in those institutions. People have come, stayed with this, because this is not a fast enterprise.

As we talk over today and tomorrow, I hope we see these signals for success and learn from each other about what you’re doing in these areas about producing change. Thank you very much for taking the time to be with us.


Terri Taylor is a director of strategy for post-secondary education for the Lumina Foundation.

Terri Taylor:         

Do y’all know Lumina Foundation? Could you just raise your hand if you have a general sense. Great. We’re the biggest private national foundation solely focused on education after high school.

So, to why was Lumina wanting to support this? First of all, if you know Lumina, all of our work is around goal 2025, so trying to get to 60% of American adults having some kind of a post secondary education by 2025.

I think that particularly I was happy to see not only a focus on completion, but completion equity. I think everyone is focused on equity and trying to figure out how to close gaps. It’s something that’s very important to us as well.

Everyone who rode the shuttle this morning—if you were at the guest house you got two shuttles, if you were at the Marriott, there wasn’t a shuttle for you.

I actually think that’s a decent analogy for representing resources. Of course, students that have traditionally been well served by our institutions, they need resources, too. But it may be that they survey those that already have resources. We might forget the people on the Marriott. We can get people here and everyone is here and we’re still going on time.


Thank you for listening. Find the audio recap of the next panel discussion, “Supporting and Engaging the Student,” and other summit proceedings at