Dear WVU Faculty and Instructors:
Who doesn’t care about student success? That’s a rhetorical question since, as university educators, we all want our students to learn, grow, achieve their goals and realize their dreams.
But “student success” in the higher education context also means something more measurable. It means we want our students to stay in college – from freshmen year on – and to graduate in a timely fashion. In this context, student success is measured by retention, persistence and four- to six-year graduation rates.
Increasing retention and graduation rates is the right thing to do, but it’s also the smart thing to do since the University retains the tuition revenue from students who chose to stay here. If there are savings realized, that revenue can be reinvested in academic programming, research support and student enhancement opportunities.
At yesterday’s Campus Conversation, we shared that the University has made great progress in improving these student success measures. Our current freshmen retention rate is 81.2% – the highest it has ever been outside of last year when we adjusted our academic policies to further support students during COVID-19. The University has increased its six-year graduation rate by more than 5% since 2007, and our current six-year graduation rate is at an all-time high of 63%.
While we’ve made great strides in our student success outcomes, we know we can do even better. WVU still ranks lower in these numbers compared to many of our peers, and we believe we can see even more progress by making a concerted effort to further strengthen our academic support structures.
As part of Academic Transformation, we will focus on improving and enhancing undergraduate academic advising. Our academic advisers are on the front lines of student success. In addition to helping students build course schedules and plan their academic progression, advisers help students navigate increasingly complex financial aid requirements, direct them to mental health and other campus resources, are available to students during breaks and throughout the summer, and use our technology and data to proactively reach at-risk students.
Through Academic Transformation, we are hoping to implement some changes to academic advising as recommended by the educational consultancy EAB, who conducted an audit of our advising practices in Spring 2021. Their suggestions include:
- Hiring more professional advisers in targeted units where retention remains a challenge;
- Standardizing positions and expectations and creating pathways to advancement; and
- Creating greater consistency in advising practices across campus to ensure that students are receiving the same guidance and level of support even when they change majors.
Our goal is not to centralize advising but rather to provide guidance, consistency, direction and support to the advising operations within our academic units. Another goal is to assist faculty in their role as content experts and mentors, freeing them from the necessity of staying current with changing federal and state guidelines, updates to advising platforms and software, and the evolving resources that support students outside the classroom.
Enhancing academic advising will require some financial investment, but it should more than pay for itself with the revenue generated from increased student retention. It also links to our higher calling of supporting students so they can be successful, from their freshman year through graduation.
We know that each of you contributes to student success in a variety of ways – but especially by providing our students with a high-quality education. If, however, you would like to be involved in our advising model redesign or other student success activities, please let our office know so we can direct you to the right opportunity. There are multiple committees and work groups dedicated to this effort, and there is always room for more engagement and input.
Also, please be sure to watch for details coming soon about our second annual Adviser Appreciation Day in April. It’s a great opportunity to extend our thanks to those who continue to serve and support our students’ needs.
Finally, mark your calendar for the next Academic Transformation Campus Conversation on Thursday, March 10 at 11 a.m. Join me and Vice President for Strategic Initiatives Rob Alsop as we discuss the University’s effort to streamline and modernize its budget practices and the potential impact of a revised budget model on academic affairs. The event will be offered both in person and virtually. Details will be provided in ENEWS and on theAcademic Transformationwebsite.
As always, let us know if you have any questions, ideas or feedback. Email us at email@example.com.
Have a great weekend!