“To maintain global competitiveness, the U.S. needs to vastly increase the number of college-educated workers,” said APLU President McPherson. “Today’s report adds important evidence to an increasingly clear conclusion: there’s no silver bullet for student success. An entire campus must be fully engaged in efforts to boost student retention and graduation.”
Describing the reports contributions, Dr. Travis York, APLU’s Director of Student Success, Research, & Policy, said, “Public universities across the country have intensified their efforts to increase the retention and persistence rates for all student groups; however, much of the research on ‘what works’ is often limited to single institutions or isolated efforts. With this report, we not only provide insight from a broad range of strategies being implemented across a large sample of public research universities, but we also dive into an exploration of the institutional contexts necessary for institutional leaders to achieve the cultural and infrastructure changes to support these efforts.”
The analysis draws on evidence from more than 50 institutions that applied for the APLU Project Degree Completion Award in 2015 and 2016, representing public universities with a broad range of institutional size, selectivity, and geographic area. Reviewing the balance of evidence, the study offers three principal conclusions about institutions that successfully improved student retention and graduation:
- The creation and implementation of strategic plans required sustained commitment from senior institutional leaders and cross-campus collaboration;
- They achieved progress through a strategic plan specifically aimed at increasing student success; and
- Institutional capacity building – especially in areas of institutional research, information technology, and business operations – was foundational to executing strategic plans.