Effective Retention Programs at Kent State University

Retention of freshman students from their first to second year is a key measure in higher education. Kent State University tracks the one-year retention rate of first-time freshmen from their first fall semester to the fall of the next year. Of the freshman students who started on the Kent Campus in the 2003 Fall Semester, 71.7 percent returned to the Kent State system last month for their second year. Overall for the Regional Campuses, 57 percent of the fall 2003 freshmen returned this year, the same rate as the previous year.

With a strategic emphasis on student success, Kent State will build upon the 2003 and

Jen Gesinski, of Mount Pleasant, Pa., smiles as students pass her booth during orientation week festivities. Photo by Gary Harwood

2002 retention rates of 71.7 percent and 72.9 percent for the Kent Campus. The university will focus on areas of improvement, such as those mentioned below, to keep students at Kent State and allow them to reach their academic goals.

Vincent Tinto, a noted researcher on college retention, points out that successful programs have at their core a broad commitment to the welfare and education of students. Tinto says that successful retention programs are committed to the students they serve, the development of supportive educational and social communities and the education of all of their students.

Committed to the Students They Serve

Strong, personal student connections factor significantly in their decisions to stay at Kent State. We see this at the Kent Campus where many instances of interventions with struggling students have improved their chances for success. The following initiatives are a few of the different types of retention programs at the Kent Campus.

Kathy Juda, a first-year retain adviser in the College of Arts and Sciences, instituted a mandatory advising meeting for fall 2003 freshmen who were on academic probation after their first semester. Juda developed a probation handbook, which listed effective study skills and strategies for taking tests and getting off academic probation. The students had homework assignments that required them to first consider their present status and then devise a plan for improvement during the spring semester. Of the students who took advantage of the mandatory advising meeting, 68 percent returned to campus this fall, as compared to 53 percent of those who did not participate in the advising meeting.

The residence hall staff and the retain advisers conducted another aggressive retention strategy. They held mid-term initiative meetings with freshmen who had a fall 2003 mid-term GPA of 2.0 or below. During those meetings, they discussed what issues might affect the students’ academic success and provided guidance on how students could seek help from the variety of resources available at Kent State. The retention rate of the students who met with the residence hall staff or retain advisers was 61 percent, as compared to 54 percent for those who did not.

Committed to the Development of Supportive Educational and Social Communities

The First-Year Experience (FYE) and the Living

A graduate displays her new diploma to her parents during commencement. Photo by Bob Christy

and Learning Communities (LLC) are communities that put together small groups of freshmen sharing similar interests. The groups live together in the residence halls and take many of the same classes. The communities allow new freshmen the opportunity to recognize other students in the large lecture classes, to become acquainted with students in the residence halls and, since they are taking the same classes, help each other with studying. The retention rate for FYE and LLC students is 73 percent, which is slightly higher than the overall freshman retention rate of 72 percent.

The Academic STARS program, headed by Shana Lee, director of the Student Multicultural Center, has worked for the past 10 years to create learning communities with highly successful retention rates among African-American students. The program helps students make the transition from high school to college. The retention rate for the Academic STARS participants has continually been above the overall freshman retention rate, and for the fall 2003 group of students it was 72.4 percent.

Committed to the Education of All

Kent State faculty and staff develop and implement these and many other programs for improved retention because they take an active and personal interest in student success. Everyone connected to students can help with retention. It is up to all colleges, departments, offices and individuals to determine how they can help students achieve their academic goals.

In the academic areas, this begins by building a culture of success in the classroom. The initiative can be as simple as encouraging students to form study groups. Or you might join a faculty learning community to share successes and learn from others.

Support and administrative staff also contribute to the creation of an effective learning environment for students. The work of grounds and custodial staff, receptionists and administrative assistants is vital to making students feel welcome and comfortable. Support and administrative staff should recognize the important link between their work and its impact on students. By focusing on helping students learn, everyone can work to eliminate barriers that hinder students and begin to build bridges that promote student success at Kent State University.

- Information provided by Business and Finance

Current Issue | Archives | Search | Text Only | Contact Us | Login to FlashLine

University Communications and Marketing