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Retention is a top priority at UVU

27 September 2011 4 Comments

Michelle Taylor, Associate Vice President of UVU’s Enrollment Management

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.

— Michelle

UVU Student Success & Retention
First Year Experience
Retention Initiatives

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  • Connor said:

    Thanks for the great helpful post.

  • Olga said:

    It is probably being done, but just in case, during the orientation it will be important that current students that are successful in the particular career talk to the freshman students. It will be nice if part of the orientation includes time for the department faculty/chair/current students and freshman to get together and share some thoughts.
    I have freshman students that do not know of resources such as getting work study, internships, working in groups, the importance of reading the textbook before class (this is vital for their success in science classes) and other resources available on campus (perhaps they didn’t attend the orientation or they didn’t pay attention.
    When is the assessment of the results obtained so far going to be published? (the effectiveness of the program in the retention).
    I have participated in the early alert program, but last semester I was amazed at the impact that publishing the midterm grades in the “OFFICIAL” web page had. My students have their grades available since the beginning of the second week of the semester so I assumed that since they could see all the grades they had, they knew how were they doing (in addition, they receive feedback and grades for their assignments/tests/quizzes). I posted the midterm grades in the “official” web page of the school and the response of the students was immediate. Students that were failing told me “I didn’t know I was failing”. I told them, you should have known since you have all the grades from all the semester so far and all you had to do was to add the numbers and divide by the total. I thought that was very obvious but apparently some of them need to have them in the “official” web page for them to take a look at how are they doing. It really surprised me.

  • UVU Blog (author) said:

    Thanks, Olga. I’ll ask Michelle if she can shed some light on any of this.

  • UVU Blog (author) said:

    Olga, here is what Michelle had to say:

    “Thank you so much for your comments. New student orientation does highlight the resources available for new students to be successful. However, for the past five years, new student orientation has been encouraged but not mandatory. Last year, new student orientation reached approximately half of the new students who enrolled for fall 2011. Unfortunately, approximately 2,500 students did not attend orientation. Beginning fall 2012, new student orientation will be mandatory for incoming students who have less than a 19 composite score on the ACT and/or less than a 2.5 high school GPA. Based on last year’s data, this may affect an additional 1,000 students who were previously not attending orientation. Personally, I am of the opinion that orientation should be mandatory for all new students but I also understand that it takes additional resources to make that happen. Each year UVU has made progress on improving orientation and making it accessible for all students. The administration has been very supportive in providing additional funding to accommodate more students each year. I am hopeful that within the next five years, orientation will become mandatory for all students.
    Regarding your question on when the assessment of the results obtained so far will be published, the Title III Grant ends September 30, 2011. The final report on the results of the Title III Grant is due at the end of December 2011 to the Federal Government. Our improved retention numbers have been and will continue to be reported through IPEDS (National Data Base for Higher Ed), North West Accreditation Reports, and through UVU’s internal stats. All the structure and targeted programs of the Title III Grant will continue. Improving these initial Title III Grant programs and identifying new approaches will be ongoing.
    I am so pleased you participated in the Early Alert Program. 26% of faculty who teach freshmen courses and/or high failure rate courses (Biology, Math 1050, etc…) reported students who were at risk for failing. Retention mentors contacted these students to provide them with ideas for resources to assist them in passing the course(s). 6% of all UVU faculty used the Midterm Grades Option to alert students. Feedback on the Midterm Grades Option has been very positive. This is an area that has great potential for our campus to expand in order to communicate to students on their progress (or lack of). The communication between the students and the instructor in the classroom is paramount to any retention effort. When faculty, such as yourself, express how helpful Mid Term Grades were in helping students recognize what they need to do to be successful, other faculty members will be willing to try it. Thank you so much for your support of this program. But most of all, thank you for what you do for your students!”

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