Student Success: The progress we’ve made and the road ahead…
In the State of the University Address this fall, President M. Roy Wilson shared some welcome news with us about our retention and graduation rates.The good news for Wayne State, is that our four-year graduation rate is the highest it’s been in 15 years*. In fact, our five-year and six-year graduation rates continue to improve as well, with the six-year graduation rate increasing by eight percentage points over the past three years to 34%.
One reason for this forward momentum is that our retention rates continue to increase. More of our students persist from their second to third years and third to fourth years. The freshman cohort retention rate into the third year is the highest in at least 17 years; the freshman cohort retention rate into the fourth year is the highest in 16 years. This is tremendous and very good news for the Wayne State collective community.
While we measure our student success by graduation and retention rates, these improvements are the outcome of student learning, of student effort, of our care for students. It’s the faculty member who challenges students by asking big questions, taking learning to a deeper level; it’s the academic advisor who asks hard questions to help a student discover their academic goals; it’s the tweet from the Registrar’s Office to a student that says “contact me about graduating” – it’s all of these things and more that propels this university forward. So while we measure success in numbers, the open, honest conversations that are taking place about finances, getting to class, learning the course material, applying course material to real-world experiences, career, major interests and what makes sense for an individual student, show students that we are here to support them on their academic journey. Ultimately it is the consequence of our students’ relationships with us — relationships that support their deepening knowledge and skill attainment on their path to degree.
However, there is much more work to do. President Wilson indicated that all WSU undergraduate students should have a clear pathway to graduation in four years. However, four-year graduation rates are not the norm for our students. Every summer, during orientation, we survey our new students. We ask them how long they expect it will take to graduate. Fully 74% of our the incoming students surveyed expect to finish in four years; only 13% of them actually do. Doing a better job of helping students complete their program in a more timely manner — without sacrificing student learning or academic rigor — is a challenge we must confront in many ways. I’ll be discussing strategies for doing this over the coming months and I’ll be looking forward to hearing from you about your ideas.
Take a moment to reflect on your own contributions to student success. Then, dig in. Continue the conversations. We still have work to do.
*All data is based on entering cohorts of first-time in college, full-time students.
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