Participation, engagement on campus increases freshman retention

Mach 07, 2017

Jasmine Nelson

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The retention rate of freshmen has not exceeded 70 percent at UCCS since 1993, according to the Office of Institutional Research. Students may leave UCCS for a variety of reasons, but those who are engaged on campus with clubs and events tend to have higher retention rates than those who aren’t.

Statistics for the fall 2015 to fall 2016 semester census support that these are some of the resources that help to increase retention in freshmen.

Career Center

Out of a sample of students, 67.4 percent of students who visited the Career Center in their first year returned to UCCS in the following fall semester.

Visiting the Career Center increased freshman retention rates to 81.5 percent, a difference of 14.1 percent, during the 2015-16 academic year.

Career Center executive director Bev Kratzer said that it helps freshmen to have an idea of what direction they want to take their careers, and resources at the center can help identify these goals.

“Especially for freshmen, I tend to offer assessments that offer the opportunity for students to know more about themselves and what areas could be a better fit.”

The center, located in Main Hall 201, also offers help with resumes, finding internships and general future preparedness.

Attending events and joining clubs

Students who did not join a club in their freshmen year at UCCS were retained at 63.1 percent as of the fall 2016 census. Participation in student clubs increased retention to 80.3 percent during the same period.

     Executive director of Student Life and Leadership Brad Bayer said that this kind of campus engagement compliments students’ primary academic goals, and contributes to success inside and outside the classroom.

“That could be through the leadership development that you receive when you’re involved in a club or organization, or it could be that you have a sense of belonging when you attend events with friends and peers. All of those things contribute (to retention),” he said.

During the 2015-16 academic year, 64.7 percent of freshmen who did not attend any campus events returned for the fall 2016 semester, and 70.3 percent of students who attended at least one event were retained into the next year.

“The education of the whole student includes the outside experience; this is a definite compliment to success, and it helps students do better in the classroom and persist here, meaning they continue on and finish their degree,” Bayer said.

Visiting the Excel Centers

The five Excel Centers on campus, which are available to all students for help with homework, additional tutoring and questions about course material, focus on student retention as their main goal, according to Science Center director Jerry Phillips.

Visiting any center at least once improved a student’s likelihood of returning to UCCS, as shown by statistics of students who were freshmen in the 2015-16 academic year.

“Students who use multiple centers are retained at a higher rate, and their overall GPA goes up with the number of centers they use,” Phillips said.

For example, from fall 2015 to fall 2016, 59.9 percent of students who did not use any of the centers returned to UCCS, but students who used the math center multiple times were retained at 79.4 percent.

Phillips said the centers support both campus engagement and academic performance.

“We do try to provide a welcoming environment for students so they have a place to come study, to use a computer and to meet friends. We also provide, then, the second major reason we help improve retention: the academic support,” Phillips said.

Participating in leadership programs

Student retention in freshmen who attended a leadership conference in the 2015-16 academic year was 10 percent higher than in freshman who did not attend a conference.

86.4 percent of students who participated in UCCSlead were retained into the fall 2016 semester, while those who did not participate in the program were retained at 67.5 percent.

Bayer said that UCCSlead is intentionally structured to help students develop a sense of identity, and this confidence can translate into the classroom.

“It’s the content that’s provided, but also the sense of belonging that’s created with peers that contribute to success,” he said.

Bayer said that UCCS supports nontraditional and commuter students who may have less time and access to many of the events and activities that residential freshmen take advantage of.

UCCSlead, for example, was designed to be flexible to all students, and the Student Veteran Center aims to support our large population of military-affiliated students.

Bayer added that student engagement on campus is not the only factor of retention, and as more research is becoming available, UCCS will be able to implement more and better ways to cater to the needs of all of its students.