I hope everyone is having a productive and enjoyable spring semester.
By now I believe everyone is keenly aware of how important student enrollment is to the overall financial condition of the university. State resources have drastically declined over the last several years, and student tuition rates have increased significantly, making the university's budget more sensitive than ever to changes in student enrollment, which of course is impacted by both student recruitment and retention.
As explained in communications this past fall semester, our most recent freshmen to sophomore retention results were disappointing, creating additional concerns regarding institutional resources. Since then, much work has occurred to begin identifying and implementing various strategies that we anticipate will have a positive impact on student retention. While several short-term strategies were developed and implemented, other longer-term issues and possible strategies were also identified.
While these areas will require further analysis and refinement of associated strategies, it is clear there remain numerous possible changes that might significantly improve student retention and progression while also enhancing institutional resources.
While not necessarily an exhaustive list, the following areas will likely be part of this effort going forward:
1. Review tutoring and other student support services with the intent to improve coordination among units that provide services and to communicate more effectively with students about available academic assistance.
2. Consider changes to SE 101 (Freshmen Success Course), including content, delivery and requirement. This course was an integral part of the prior SACS Quality Enhancement Plan (QEP), making significant changes unrealistic until the recent completion of the SACS reporting cycle.
3. Evaluate and modify our current student advising model. Linkages between the prior QEP, the SE 101 course and the Center for Student Excellence under the centralized freshmen advising system also made significant changes in the current advising model unrealistic until recently.
4. Evaluate and modify new-student intake (Freshmen Orientation), including the possible creation of department- or program- specific freshmen convocations and other opportunities to enhance new student interactions with department/program faculty/staff.
5. Review and revise policies and procedures that might impede student success, e.g., registration policies, progression policies, etc.
6. Review and improve campus customer service.
7. Review and revise curricular requirements to help ensure appropriate academic requirements and easily discernible pathways to fulfill degree requirements.
8. Expand and improve timely reporting of student retention/success results to academic departments and colleges.
9. Review and revise admission standards and explore possible new collaborative enrollment arrangements with community/technical college partners.
10. Further explore use of mid-term grades and other potential measures of student progress in courses with the intent of improving opportunities for earlier interventions for students who are struggling.
11. Evaluate impact of delivery method (on-line, hybrid, face-to-face) on student success in freshman courses.
12. Evaluate impact of class attendance and related policies on student academic performance.
13. Analyze and expand opportunities to improve student academic performance through campus-life connections, e.g., living/learning communities in Student Housing. Study and devise programming targeting commuter students to enhance their engagement with the university.
14. Improve collection and analysis of data and generation of reports that allow for improved decision making.
In the weeks and months ahead various individuals and groups will be working to further analyze these potential opportunities and to develop associated changes and strategies.