Illinois State University’s graduation rate continues to climb and is now at 71.8 percent, which puts it in the top 10 percent of public and private universities nationwide. That’s the university’s highest graduation rate in recent history.

The national average is 56 percent for public universities, according to the U.S. Department of Education.

“Illinois State’s impressive graduation rate is the result of high quality academic programs, a supportive campus environment and a strong commitment to student success,” said President Larry Dietz. “Students who graduate from Illinois State are well prepared for lives and careers in an ever-changing, globalized world.”

Graduating on time also means students leave with lower debt and start earning sooner, said Troy Johnson, Illinois State’s associate vice president of enrollment management. Less debt also means graduates are better able to pay off their loans. More than 96 percent meet their loan obligations.

“This speaks to our affordability,” Johnson said. “Our students don’t spend extra time and money working toward their degree. They’re getting jobs.”

What also contributes to the rising graduation rate is the academic quality of the student body. The average ACT of the freshman class was 24 with a high school grade point average of 3.4 on a 4.0 scale.