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Commitment to student success results in increase in OHIO’s retention rate

This is the second article in a two-part series exploring Ohio University’s enrollment and retention numbers. The first article, highlighting gains the University has made in enrollment, may be viewed here.

Academic excellence is at the core of Ohio University’s educational mission, and data provided by the University’s Office of Institutional Research shows gains in an important indicator of student success – OHIO’s retention rate.

Ohio University’s retention rate this fall stands at 80.2 percent – up 1 percent from last fall semester. The retention rate measures the number of students who remained enrolled at the institution from their first year to their second year.

“The increase we’re seeing in our retention rate reflects the commitment to student success that we’re seeing at this University,” said Elizabeth Sayrs, dean of University College and vice provost for undergraduate education. “It shows what’s happening at the college and academic level and how our faculty and staff are focused on quality and success for our students.”

According to Craig Cornell, vice provost for enrollment management, the improvement made in the University’s retention rate is particularly impressive given the size of last year’s first-year class, which was up 356 students from the previous year.

“We are excited to see the success rate of our first-year students increase,” said Angela Lash, assistant director of the Allen Student Advising Center. “We feel that this increase can be attributed to many initiatives and collaboration between multiple units across campus.”

Part of OHIO’s University College, the Allen Center houses the Allen Student Advising Center and Undergraduate Orientation Programs. Its sole mission is to promote undergraduate student success and retention.

The Allen Center offers several programs and resources to OHIO undergraduates, and Lash noted a couple of the center’s initiatives that were key to improvements in the University’s retention rate.

For the past several years, the Allen Center has focused some of its efforts on first-generation student retention, which resulted in a 3 percent increase in first-generation student retention last fall. Those efforts will continue this year as the Class of 2018 includes 1,065 first-generation students, up 172 students (19. 3 percent) from fall 2013. In fact, first-generation students comprise 24.3 percent of OHIO’s 2014-15 first-year class.

Since the spring of 2014, the following initiatives have been launched specifically for first-generation students:

  • The appointment of a full-time advisor for first-generation students
  • The addition of Bobcat Student Orientation session specifically for first-generation students and their parents
  • Free tutoring for first-year, first-generation students
  • The formation of a student organization, We Are First, specifically for first-generation students to provide camaraderie and support
  • Proactive outreach to students who are struggling academically or socially through use of MAP-Works and Academic Progress e-Reports (midterm grades)

Lash also noted the success the Allen Center has seen in terms of retaining students who graduated high school in the bottom half of their class. From fall 2012 to fall 2013, Ohio University saw the retention rate of first-year students who graduated in the bottom 20 percent of their high school class increase from 72 percent to 83 percent.

“This improvement, we believe, is a result of OHIO’s continued effort to assist students who may not have had the best preparation for college but who have incredible potential to be successful here,” she said.

In addition, the University is in its fourth year of implementing the MAP-Works program, a web-based system that identifies students who are struggling academically or socially, allowing staff and faculty to intervene early in a student’s experience to provide assistance and connections to campus resources.

“The MAP-Works program has expanded each year it’s been in place,” Lash said. “We’ve expanded not only the student population included in the program but also the number of faculty and staff users as well as the overall usage of the program.”

When asked his overall reaction to this year’s enrollment and retention numbers, Cornell said: “Any year where you see basically systemic growth across all the different areas and still meet the mission of the University, then that’s a good place to be. This is shaping up to be a very successful year, and a lot of people contributed to that across the entire University.”