Retention is a top priority at UVU
The mission of UVU is to provide access to higher education through an open admissions process for students with diverse academic abilities, whose skill sets prepare them for everything from developmental courses to graduate level work and all ability levels in between. This presents unique challenges for supporting students who still need to develop additional skills to be successful in university level courses while at the same time providing challenging programs for exceptionally gifted and talented scholars.
Without a dynamic student success and retention program, students may get discouraged in the process of developing important foundational skills in English, reading and math necessary to be a successful university student. Students with high academic abilities also need social and emotional support in order to thrive. In an effort to increase the retention rate at UVU but even more importantly, to provide academic and social support for a wide range of students, UVU obtained in 2005 a Title III Grant focusing on increasing student success and retention. The funding of this grant ends in 2011, but the structural and cultural changes the grant provided seed money to implement remains.
Three goals for Student Success and Retention have been completed in the past five years using the seed money through the Title III Grant:
1) the development of a First-Year Experience program to enhance successful transition to university with attention to students in at-risk populations;
2) the implementation of a Student Retention Information Tracking System (SRITS) to enhance reporting ability; and
3) the implementation of a comprehensive and progressive training process for faculty, staff and key administrative leaders on student success and retention.
The First-Year Experience program consists of an array of services and programs all new students are encouraged to experience during their first critical year at the university. Key components of the program include Orientation, Academic Advisement, Early Alert, Smart Start Emails, Student Success Course, and the Freshmen Reading Program.
New Student Orientation is the foundation for understanding the resources available on campus. The Academic Advisor is the life line for any student. All students must visit with their academic advisors before registering for courses. Depending on the student’s preparation, an individualized academic pathway is developed that is unique for each student. Contingent upon skill levels, students may be required to meet with their academic advisors every semester and take a specific sequence of developmental courses.
The relationship between a student and his or her academic advisor is an important key in providing accurate information and guidance throughout the process of completing a degree. Wolverine Track is a system that documents each student’s progress toward degree completion. It also allows students to develop personalized graduation plans. Early Alert provides faculty with a tool to report students who are not attending or are failing the class within the first half of the semester. Students are contacted by a peer mentor to offer support and provide direction in getting help before it is too late in the semester to improve a failing grade.
Start Smart is a series of emails for new students highlighting what to expect during that first critical year and alerting students to resources they may access for additional support. The Student Success Class is a three-credit course offered for students that focuses on how to make the successful transition from high school to the university. Each class has a Peer Mentor to assist students in accessing resources during the semester at the university. The Freshmen Reading Program provides a common reading for all freshmen.
The Student Retention Information Tracking System tracks the progress of students. With more than 33,000 students, the tracking of student’s progress is a formidable process. Each year, the tracking system is improved to assist the retention mentors in identifying students who need help early in order for the mentors to provide outreach in time to successfully intervene.
The roles of faculty, staff and administration in student success and retention are essential and foundational to the success of any and all retention programs. Training for faculty, staff and administration are ongoing.
Retention is measured by the percentage of first-time, full-time, bachelor degree-seeking students who attended fall and returned the following fall. UVU had a retention rate of 51.3 percent in 2005. In 2010, UVU’s retention rate had reached 65.5 percent. The national average is 67.3 percent. UVU has a goal to surpass the national average rate by 2020. Although UVU has made great progress in the past five years to impact the retention of students, there is much more that can be done. Building on the success of the Title III Grant is an exciting and welcome opportunity. UVU is dedicated to continue the great work of preparing individuals for meaningful careers and life long learning.