Freshman Student Retention Rates at Boise State Rise, Despite National Drop

First-year students are returning in greater numbers to the Boise State University campus for a second year, despite a national decline in freshman retention rates.

According to an annual survey conducted by ACT Inc., the percentage of freshmen across the nation returning to their first-year colleges dropped from 68 percent in 2006-07 to just 66 percent a year later. Over that same time period, retention rates at Boise State rose from 63 percent to 68 percent., putting Boise State’s retention rate above the national average.

“We are very pleased that our freshman retention rate has shown such positive improvement, especially in light of national trends to the contrary,” said Sona Andrews, provost and vice president for academic affairs. “We are especially excited to note that this improvement is the result of strategic planning and action on the part of the university to ensure student success.”

In 2004, Boise State created a freshman success task force to determine why students do or do not return for a second year, review the effectiveness of current campus programs and make recommendations on services that would increase the likelihood of retaining first-year students. The result was the Freshman Success Task Force Action Plan, unveiled in spring 2006.

Recommendations for improvement identified in the plan include areas of staffing, orientation, learning in math, student services, and academic and career advising.

Specific actions taken to address retention include:
• Enhanced advising: Six new academic adviser positions have been created to support general and college-based advising, and students without academic advisers have been identified and assigned. In addition, the Finish in Four program was instituted to encourage and assist students in graduating within four years.
• First-year student programs: Summer orientation has been expanded to a two-day, overnight experience in order to build community and focus on academics. University 101 freshman seminars, living-learning communities and residential colleges are helping students connect to other students, faculty and campus services.
• Increased faculty-student interaction: Interaction with faculty both inside and outside of the classroom has proven to be an important factor in student success. Initiatives have been implemented to increase internships, learning communities and faculty mentoring. In addition, full- and part-time faculty members have greater support for teaching introductory classes so that positive relationships can be cultivated with students early in their academic careers.
• Increased employment opportunities: Students cite finances as the top reason for leaving college. Working on campus not only provides financial resources, it also increases student engagement in campus life. Several strategies have been implemented to increase employment opportunities on campus, including involvement in the Family Literacy program as a way to serve the community, and newly created Undergraduate Research and Teaching Assistantship work-study positions.
• Remedial math success: Lack of success in math has long been a barrier for students. To address this problem, course structures in math have been dramatically changed to allow students more time with instructors, increased instructor preparation and more effective assessments to ensure that students are placed in the appropriate math class.

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