Clarion University has implemented several processes, intentionally aimed at improving student retention. The result? Clarion’s retention of first- to second-year, first-time, bachelor’s-seeking students has increased to 75.7 percent in fall 2013, an increase of 5.5 percentage points over the previous two years.
“This increase is the result of a number of efforts by many faculty and staff,” said Dr. Ron Nowaczyk, Clarion provost.
One of the new tools is software called Mapworks. It’s a self-reporting mechanism; students report on a number of different dimensions of how they’re adjusting to college life, including social, extracurricular activity and academic.
“It has an algorithm that identifies students who may be at risk. We contacted them much earlier than we ever could before,” Nowaczyk said.
In addition, the university has been much more intentional about early attendance reporting, he said. The faculty are required to submit attendance records for the first several weeks of classes to identify students who are not going to class.
“(Not attending class) is a major contribution to students falling behind,” Nowaczyk said. “Now we can intervene much earlier.”
The third action is involving families more in their students’ progress.
“We sent postcards to families, congratulating students on their performance, or, if we noticed a student hadn’t registered (for next semester classes), we sent postcards,” Nowaczyk said. “Families are now helping us to make sure students are successful.”
While he’s delighted with the increase in retention, Nowaczyk said he wants to continue the momentum and raise the retention rate to 80 percent over the next two years with these additional initiatives:
Engaged learner concept, with linked courses and peer mentors;
Student Success Collaborative, which provides predictive analytics to advisors to better advise students on their academic studies;
Faculty mentors for first-year males of color, a group with traditionally low retention rate at Clarion.
“There is a lot of good work going on to help our students, and we are proud of that,” Nowaczyk said. “I hope we can continue to see an increase in our retention and subsequent graduation rates, which will enhance Clarion’s academic reputation.”
Clarion University is the high-achieving, nationally recognized, comprehensive university that delivers a personal and challenging academic experience.