Student achievement

Student success is a top priority at VCU, as evidenced by the university's strategic plan, Quest 2025. Uniquely, the plan outlines VCU's commitment to provide an exceptional academic experience for its students through a combination of academic rigor AND access to higher education for traditionally underserved groups.

To that end, VCU has established a range of student achievement metrics, with targets for its undergraduate, graduate and professional students. These metrics provide the university and the general public with evidence of VCU's progress towards its strategic goals.

The goals displayed in the tables below represent the targets set for 2025 by the university's current strategic priorities. For additional data around Quest 2025's strategic goals, visit VCU's metrics dashboard.

Student achievement goal: undergraduate retention

Theme I of the university's strategic plan outlines goals for student success tied to retention and graduation rates. The table below demonstrates the university's progress toward these retention targets in recent years.

Fall cohortOne year retentionTwo year retentionThree year retention
2013 86% 77% 71%
2014 86% 76% 69%
2015 86% 77% 70%
2016 83% 74% ---
2017 85% --- ---
  2025 target: 90% 2025 target: 84% 2025 target: 80%

Student achievement goal: undergraduate graduation goals

The university is committed to improving graduation rates overall as well as eliminating equity gaps in graduation experienced by demographic groups. The table below demonstrates the university's progress toward improving the graduation rates for first-time freshmen, Pell grant recipients, underrepresented minorities, and transfer students.

Fall cohortFreshman six-year graduation ratesFreshmen Pell recipients six-year graduation ratesFreshmen URM six-year graduation ratesTransfer student four-year graduation rate
2008 59% 60% 57% 59%
2009 62% 59% 61% 56%
2010 62% 60% 58% 57%
2011 63% 60% 60% 62%
2012 67% 63% 64% 63%
2013 --- --- --- 63%
  2025 target: 78% 2025 target: 77% 2025 target: 78% 2025 target: 72%

Graduate student achievement

Theme II, Goal 2 of VCU's Quest 2025 strategic plan strives to achieve academic distinction internationally by, among other strategies, "growing areas of strength as researchers, innovators and educators." One strategy toward this goal entails growing doctoral enrollment and degree production.

To that end, the table below indicates VCU's progress in recent years.

Degree yearFall enrollment - Doctoral studentsDoctoral degree production
2014-15 1,370 282
2015-16 1,427 306
2016-17 1,491 306
2017-18 1,576 326
2018-9 1,640 353
  2025 target: 1,725 2025 target: 355

Professional programs: Student achievement

VCU's first professional programs often use licensure exam pass rates as an indicator of student achievement. To see data on these programs' recent cohorts, please select a unit below:

The following tables outline the pass rates for the licensure or cerfitication exams administered to students within the College of Health Professions. Target and threshold scores for each exam are set by the specialized accrediting body.

Clinical Laboratory Science: ASCP Board of Certification

YearThresholdPass rateTarget
2014 80% 96.2% 100%
2015 80% 100% 100%
2016 80% 91.9% 100%
2017 80% 97% 100%
2018 80% 92.5% 100%

Radiation Sciences/Nuclear Medicine Technology, B.S. (NMTCB)

YearThreshold (all exams)Pass rate (Nuclear medicine technology)Pass rate (Radiation therapy)Pass rate (Radiography)Target (all exams)
2014 80% 100% 100% 100% 100%
2015 80% 100% 100% 93% 100%
2016 80% 80% 100% 100% 100%
2017 80% 100% 100% 94% 100%
2018 80% 100% 100% 100% 100%

Nurse Anesthesia: NCE Exam

YearThresholdPass rateNational averageTarget
2014 80% 95% 87.8% 100%
2015 80% 91% 85% 100%
2016 80% 92% 84.5% 100%
2017 80% 83% 82.6% 100%
2018 80% 100% 84.3% 100%

Physical Therapy, D.P.T.: NPTE

YearThresholdPass rateNational averageTarget
2014 90% 100% 91% 100%
2015 90% 100% 91% 100%
2016 90% 98.2% 93% 100%
2017 90% 83% 92% 100%
2018 90% 100% 91% 100%

Dentistry D.D.S.
To obtain a license to practice dentistry a student must fulfill three criteria. These include: 1) a diploma from a Commission on Dental Accreditation (CODA) accredited dental school, 2) documentation from the Joint Commission on National Dental Examinations (JCNDE)verifying successful completion of Part I and Part II of the National Board Dental Examinations (NBDE), where Part I assesses student’s knowledge of biomedical sciences and Part II assesses the clinical disciplines, and 3) documentation from a clinical testing agency verifying successful completion of a clinical examination accepted be the State Board of Dentistry. American Board of Dental Examiners, Inc. administered by the Council of Interstate Testing Agencies (ADEX/CITA) administers the dental licensure examination most widely accepted among state dental boards, including Virginia. The percentage reported is the average of first time pass rate of all sections. Passing the clinical dental board examination (ADEX/CITA) and the NBDE I & II are not required to obtain a degree.

YearThreshold (all exams)First-time pass rate (NBDE I)First-time pass rate (NBDE II)First-time pass rate (ADEX-CITA)Graduation rateTarget (all exams)
2014 90% 92% 97% 96% 93% 100%
2015 90% 97% 97% 97% 96% 100%
2016 90% 87% 92% 97% 94% 100%
2017 90% 91% 96% 98% 95% 100%
2018 90% 92% 97% 97% 95% 100%
2019 90% 98% 94% 96% 94% 100%

Dental Hygiene B.S.
To obtain a license to practice dental hygiene from the State Board of Dentistry, a student must fulfill three criteria. These include: 1) a diploma from a Commission on Dental Accreditation (CODA) accredited dental hygiene program, 2) documentation from the Joint Commission on National Dental Examinations (JCNDE) verifying successful completion of National Board on Dental Hygiene Examination (NBDHE), and 3) documentation from a clinical testing agency verifying successful completion of a clinical examination accepted be the State Board of Dentistry. American Board of Dental Examiners, Inc. administered by the Council of Interstate Testing Agencies (ADEX/CITA) administers the dental hygiene licensure examination most widely accepted among state dental boards, including Virginia. The percentage reported is the first time pass rate of all sections. Passing the clinical dental hygiene board examination (ADEX/CITA) and the (NBDHE) are not required to obtain a degree.

YearThreshold (all exams)First-time pass rate (ADEX-CITA)First-time pass rate (NBDHE)Graduation rateTarget (all exams)
2014 95% 93% 95% 83% 100%
2015 95% 91% 91% 100% 100%
2016 95% 100% 91% 95% 100%
2017 95% 95% 95% 95% 100%
2018 95% 95% 100% 92% 100%
2019 95% 100% 100% 100% 100%

Students pursuing an M.D. through the School of Medicine must pass the three-step US Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE) for licensure in the United States. Step 1 assesses understanding of important concepts of science basic to the practice of medicine and must be passed in order to proceed with clinical training. Step 2 Clinical Knowledge (CK) assesses students’ ability to apply medical knowledge essential for the provision of medical care, whereas Step 2 Clinical Skills (CS) directly assesses students ability to gather information from simulated patients, perform physical examinations, and communicate in a patient-centered manner overall. Students in the School of Medicine must complete Step 1 in order to progress through the program and typically take Step 2 CK and Step 2 CS prior to graduation.

With respect to targets, the unit compares achievement rates of its students annually to the national average on each Step. The table below presents the first time pass rates on each step, along with the national average for first time pass rates from examinees attending U.S. and Canadian schools for the last five years.

VCU School of Medicine First Time Pass Rates on USMLE

Academic yearStep 1Step 2 CKStep 2 CSStep 3
2014-15 96% 95% 97% 97%
2015-16 98% 96% 96% 97%
2016-17 96% 99% 94% 96%
2017-18 93% 97% 97% 99%
2018-19 98% 99% 98% ---
  Target: 96%
Threshold: 90%
Target: 96%
Threshold: 90%
Target: 96%
Threshold: 90%
Target: 96%
Threshold: 90%

Graduates from the School of Nursing take the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX), a nationwide examination for the licensing of nurses in the U.S. and Canada. The following tables outline the first-time pass rates for VCU graduates taking the NCLEX exam. Target and threshold scores for each exam are set by the specialized accrediting body.

Academic yearThresholdPass rate (NCLEX)National averageTarget
2014-15 80% 93.06% 87.49% 90%
2015-16 80% 93.20% 87.80% 90%
2016-17 80% 97.30% 90.04% 90%
2017-18 80% 94.33% 91.57% 90%
2018-19 80% 93.42% (partial) 92.80% (partial) 90%

Students in the Pharm.D. program of the School of Pharmacy take two tests for licensure. The North American Pharmacist Licensure Examination (NAPLEX) measures one’s ability to measure pharmacotherapy and therapeutic outcomes, prepare and dispense medication, and implement and evaluate information for optimal health care. The Multistate Pharmacy Jurisprudence Exam (MPJE) assesses competency and knowledge of pharmacy law. The VCU School of Pharmacy sets target pass rates with the goal to equal or exceed the average pass rates among the top ten pharmacy schools in the U.S. The threshold is set as the national average for pass rates each year. The table below shows the first time pass rates for VCU School of Pharmacy graduates for the academic year identified, compared to the national average of first time pass rates as well as the NAPLEX and MPJE targets for the year.

Academic yearNAPLEX targetNAPLEX pass rateNAPLEX nat. averageMPJE targetMPJE pass rateMPJE nat. average
2014-15 96.1% 96.77% 92.64% NA* NA* 94.35%
2015-16 93.6% 89.68% 85.86% NA* 47.83% 84.74%
2016-17 94.2% 96.09% 87.95% 94.2% 91.67% 85.2%
2017-18 93.8% 98.45% 89.46% 93.8% 91.89% 83.76%