Tactical Plan for Improving Retention and Graduation Rates at the University of Kentucky

Last fall Provost Riordan gave a presentation to the Division of Undergraduate Education and challenged us to take the lead on how to renew the University’s emphasis on improving our retention and graduation rates. She pressed home the point that a fresh approach to the problem of attrition is needed in order to address these problems identified at UK:

  • Difficulty in maintaining steady progress in area of retention
  • Lack of continuity between plans
  • Lack of continuous institutional progress

Retention Initiatives at UKShe emphasized the Retention Workgroup’s recommendations last year, and we list them here for you to review during this crucial time for our new incoming class for 2014:

  1. Promote academic preparation and utilize effective recruitment efforts.
    • During the admissions process, give more weight to high school GPA.
    • If possible, recruit students with an ACT of 25.5 with movement toward 26.
    • Aim for a mix of 1/3 nonresident and 2/3 resident with a class of 4800 – 5000.
    • Implement a holistic admission approach that places UK in a category that can yield 87-90% first to second year retention and a six year graduation rate of 70-75%.
    • Investigate the possibility of setting an admissions deadline for first-year students.
    • Utilize a scholarship effort focused on outcomes.
    • Create more college-focused sections of UK 101 and increase to two credit hours.
    • Continue to implement college-level, tailored readiness programs (e.g. Boot Camp) that prepare new students.
    • Build on themes that emphasize the UK’s expectations of success.
  2. Using a data-driven approach, tailor retention strategies to address individual student needs.
    • Integrate student involvement data into one 360-degree view of the student, including real-time monitoring, student alerts and small-segment management.
    • Implement a policy for mandatory attendance taking in freshman courses and implement technology to capture student attendance and involvement in classes.
    • Set expectation for faculty and students to have at least one scored item in the first three to four weeks of class time.
    • Require participation in Impact Programs for students who stumble.
    • Conduct specific assessment of high-risk majors.
    • Review current activities and programs to see if they are effective and impactful over time.
  3. Working with the colleges and faculty, develop a centralized system to connect students with resources needed for success.
    • Create an Undergraduate Success Center that provides a “one stop shop” for academic and co-curricular services and activities.
    • Create a first year experience office within the Success Center.
    • Encourage involvement in at least one major organizational element through a quasi-mandatory Boot Camp.
    • Modify Orientation to provide an increased academic focus.
    • Expand “The Study” by opening a branch to the center of campus.
    • Encourage students to live on campus.
    • Explore innovative degree delivery systems.
    • Develop programs to increase awareness of retention issues among faculty.
    • Celebrate milestones.
  4. Strengthen the impact of academic advising by adopting a comprehensive, customized approach that fosters college and faculty involvement
    • Develop an explicit, coherent organizational philosophy in regard to advising.
    • Identify retention leaders within each college to provide input into the overall advising philosophy, customize advising and retention solutions within that college and to encourage faculty participation.
    • Expand efforts at interweaving successful academic advising, transition/alternate path counseling, and career counseling.
    • Develop a case management system to monitor and measure different student touch points.
    • Focus on students throughout their degree programs.
    • Create a Student Financial Management Center.
    • Increase resource and prioritization support for the SAP degree planner tool, enhanced mobile recruiting apps, etc.
  5. Create a culture for student graduation.
    • Launch a marketing and communications campaign which encourages students to graduate in four years.
    • Investigate the viability of financial incentives for graduating in four years.
    • Engage the student government in identifying ways to promote graduation and student success within the student body.
  6. Promote greater engagement among upper-division students.
    • Increase students’ out-of-class contact and interaction with faculty through undergraduate research.
    • Create capstone courses for seniors.
    • Strengthen academic standards in upper division courses.
    • Address needs and promote interests of upper-division students through campus-based activities.
  7. Improve evidence-based continuous improvement.
    • Measure central and college-level retention programs.
    • Review program measures semi-annually.
    • Promote iterative team learning and application of findings through a regular and easily-accessible reporting system for retention.
  8. Integrate accountability at all levels.
    • Ensure that improving the retention rates across all years and the graduation rate are major goals of the Associate Provost of Undergraduate Education.
    • Integrate retention accountability metrics into the yearly performance scorecards and goals of the Deans and Colleges, as well as into other units (e.g., Student Affairs, UGE, International Center).
    • Implement accountability metrics to ensure that the Office of Institutional Research is held accountable for producing standard and usable reports for each of the colleges and for the overall institution and that the Office of Student Success is responsible for designing early detection systems.
    • Require each College to designate a faculty-led committee to oversee retention, with direct-line accountability to the associate deans of undergraduate education.

Provost Christine M. Riordan’s slides for an address to the Division of Undergraduate Education, November 26, 2013. Download the PowerPoint here.


About UK Student and Academic Life

Undergraduate Education is now recreated within the Division of Student and Academic Life in the Provost's Office at the University of Kentucky.
This entry was posted in College/Career Readiness, Educational Technology, Orientation, Student Success, Undergraduate Curriculum and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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