The most important factor in retaining a UCCS student from their freshman to sophomore year and ultimately through graduation is relatively obvious, said Barbara Gaddis, director, Office of First Year Experience and Student Retention, during an Oct. 9 all-campus forum.
“It’s you,” Gaddis said to the approximately 60 faculty and staff members who attended the forum.
Gaddis and Homer Wesley, vice chancellor, Student Success and Enrollment Management, provided an overview of UCCS enrollment and a key factor in it, retaining students from year to year and helping them graduate.
“All of this is so important,” Wesley said. “So much of our budget is self-generated. What we depend on today is what we do. Sixty-one percent of our general fund budget came from resident tuition and another 18 percent in terms of fees and out of state budgets.”
Using a PowerPoint presentation, Wesley detailed the effect of a lower-than-expected summer enrollment and a larger-than-expected fall enrollment, explaining possible causes and pointing out that UCCS is one of only a few Colorado-based colleges or universities to experience an enrollment increase. For fall, UCCS saw a more than 5 percent increase in enrollment including substantial increases in new freshmen, new transfer students, minority enrollment and nonresident students.
“These numbers are reflective of some very hard work of people in this room who are directly connected to enrollment but also the entire university community. We believe very much that this recruitment-retention effort is a universitywide commitment.”
Gaddis talked about student retention between freshman and sophomore years. Historically, UCCS retains 66 to 71 percent of its students.
Understanding student qualifications and the reasons they are unsuccessful is key to improving retention, Gaddis said, before explaining that academically prepared students and those who have a major in mind are often the most likely to continue. Other positive factors include students who live in housing, those who enroll in Freshman Seminar, and those who take advantage of academic learning centers.
“Generally, students who have higher academic preparation coming to school end up being retained to a higher degree,” Gaddis said.
But students who might be considered at risk are also retained at a high rate because of extra efforts including mandatory meetings with advisers, and taking classes as a group.
“If we can get the students, make them connect with the help that that they need, we can meet our mission of providing access and helping students be successful,” Gaddis said.
Gaddis talked extensively about the challenge of freshman who take difficult courses and then fail them, often discouraging those students from continuing.
“Freshmen who don’t do well in these classes end up thinking ‘I’ll do better if I go somewhere else,” Gaddis said. “They kind of give up and then leave. We want to make sure we work with that.”
Gaddis suggested the following actions to improve retention
- Mandate academic support for students with low academic preparation.
- Additional tracking of students with multiple risk factors.
- Placement testing to help students decide majors.
- Early alert system. Faculty in 1000 and 2000 level courses can seek assistance from the Office of First Year Experience and Retention for students who are having difficulty.
- More connecting of faculty and staff with freshman students through mentoring opportunities.
“I want to thank you for everything you’ve done and everything you will do,” Gaddis said. “Because, by your role in your offices in your role as faculty, whether you work with freshmen, whether you work with students directly or indirectly, you make a big impact on students and the campus. Most of the time you won’t know the impact you made.”