Update on Retention Programs

Dear Colleagues:

As detailed in the Integrated Enrollment Plan (link below), we have a number of retention and completion efforts underway.  In an effort to make sure we expend targeted retention funds in the most effective way possible, I have required that all programs demonstrate efficacy through small pilots prior to any broader implementation.  This has provided some great data and laid an empirically-informed foundation for planning purposes.  The programs mentioned below build on the remarkable success of several externally funded programs, including the TRIO programs (federal funds) and First Scholars (supported by the Suder Foundation).  You can find out more about these programs on the University webpage.   Their retention and completion rates have been nothing short of exceptional.   The TRIO Classic program serves 200 students across all majors and has a one-year retention rate of 81% and six-year graduation rate of 57%. The TRIO STEM program serves 120 STEM majors and has a one-year retention rate of 79%.  (The program has only been in existence since 2010; we do not yet have a six-year graduation rate for TRIO STEM). 

Two new efforts, in particular, are worth mention. First, the Academic Coaching for Excellence (ACE) program provides proactive support for students identified as potentially at-risk in accordance with a range of variables critical to degree completion. A small pilot funded this past year demonstrated noticeable improvement in retention for the students involved.  Similarly, the students voiced strong support for the role played by their coaches.  This effort will be expanded in the 2014-2015 academic year.  I’ll keep you updated on progress and outcomes.

The U of M Finish Line Program targets students no longer enrolled with 90+ hours that have not re-enrolled at another institution of higher education. In short, these students have had to abandon their dreams of completing a college degree.  The 90+ threshold is significant for several reasons. First, these students have demonstrated the ability to be successful in college. Second, they are within a single academic year of successful graduation (i.e. 30 hours). And finally, the primary reason for withdrawal at 90+ hours is not poor academic performance, rather financial and related psychosocial challenges. 

The Finish Line program was launched this past fall under the direction of Dr. Dick Irwin (University College).  Over 2,800 students have already been identified who withdrew from the University over the past four years meeting the 90+ criteria.  The Finish Line team has implemented a protocol for identifying qualified students at the end of each semester, providing the opportunity for quick and effective intervention.  Initial results from a pilot of 70 students revealed the ability to re-establish contact with the majority through email, phone or traditional mail service, with over 90% of those contacted enthusiastic about the opportunity to complete their degree. This year alone, almost 50% of those engaged in the pilot study will complete their degrees in 2014, requiring only very limited financial support and assistance with effective degree planning. 

Early returns suggest this program could well be one of the single most effective retention and completion tools available at the University of Memphis.  In addition to efficiently growing support staff for this program, we are pursuing private support for scholarship funds. I’ve pasted the Finish Line logo below; Linda Bonnin’s group did a great job with the design.

As you can see we’re making strategic investments to improve retention and completion at the University of Memphis.  Your support and hard work is greatly appreciated.

Finish line.jpg

Link to Integrated Enrollment Plan: http://www.memphis.edu/provost/presentations.php

Go Tigers!

M. David Rudd, Provost

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