University of Nebraska working to grow student success rates
The University of Nebraska is putting in place a range of strategies to improve student retention and graduation rates as it seeks to grow its contributions to Nebraska’s workforce, according to a presentation this month to the Board of Regents.
Each NU campus has implemented research-based strategies aimed at helping students stay on the path to a degree so they can graduate on time, with less debt, and enter the workforce sooner, regents learned. Increasing retention and graduation rates, while maintaining the university’s traditions of accessibility and academic quality, is a high priority of the Board and NU leaders.
President Hank Bounds noted that the university already graduates 11,000 students each year. Given workforce demands of the future – more than 70 percent of all Nebraska jobs will soon require higher education – the university must grow that number in order to help grow Nebraska, Bounds said.
“Our record-high enrollment of almost 53,000 is a great point of pride, but we’re not satisfied to simply enroll more students. We want to do all we can to make sure those students earn the degree they came for,” Bounds said. “We owe it to students and parents who are investing in the promise of a college degree to make sure we have the right support systems in place to help them complete their education. And we owe policymakers, business owners and all Nebraskans our very best efforts in producing many more of the highly skilled graduates that our workforce and economy need.
“We’re headed in the right direction, and that’s a real credit to the thoughtful, committed work the campuses are doing to serve our students and state effectively.”
New and ongoing strategies for increasing student retention and graduation include:
- Next fall, the University of Nebraska-Lincoln will pilot Integrated Planning and Advising System (IPAS), a comprehensive planning system designed to help students graduate on time. IPAS will allow students to build personal four-year graduation plans that are automatically tied to the university’s course registration system.
Faculty and staff will have access to real-time data on the students they advise, allowing them to identify and help off-track students early. Faculty also will be able to monitor data on demand for courses, allowing them to plan for capacity to ensure students can get into the courses they need for graduation.
- At the University of Nebraska at Omaha, newly customized orientation programs for first-year students, adult learners and veterans are in place to ensure that students from different backgrounds enroll in the right courses to keep them on track for graduation. UNO also has created an Academic and Career Development Center that is a one-stop shop for students who need academic and career advising or help finding internships.
Along with the other campuses, UNO also offers a wide range of learning community opportunities that allow students with similar backgrounds and interests to live and learn together with intentional faculty, staff and peer support. In addition to these advancements in student success, UNO has also utilized data more strategically in recent years to improve academic advising and retention efforts throughout the institution.
- The University of Nebraska at Kearney in 2014 began a comprehensive study of student success trends. UNK found that students’ reasons for leaving school before graduation included academic performance issues, lack of engagement on campus, financial challenges and other personal reasons.
In response, UNK has implemented strategies to remove barriers to success, including strengthened faculty advising with greater awareness of academic progress issues, a review of courses with low completion rates, and new alternative career paths for students who are not admitted to professional school.
Among other success strategies, UNK also requires freshmen to “huddle” with professional advisers early in the year to make sure they’re on the right track and flag any challenges early, and offers a “Loper 2 Loper” mentoring program through which students are coached by their peers.
A number of other collaborative initiatives are underway to improve time-to-degree completion and build educational attainment in Nebraska. Transfer Nebraska, for example, is a one-stop shop for students looking to explore course transferability among Nebraska’s public higher education institutions. And under Nebraska’s reverse transfer option, former community college students who are enrolled or have been enrolled at a university or state college campus can transfer credits they’ve earned back to the Nebraska community college they attended – helping them attain an associate’s degree and be more competitive in the workforce.
Commit to Complete, announced by Bounds in 2016, offers students, parents and advisors a four-step plan focused on timely degree completion.
Director of Communications University of Nebraska