As part of its ongoing efforts to increase degree completion, APLU named Boise State University, Colorado State University, the University of Hawaii at Manoa, the University of Texas at Austin, and Western Michigan University as finalists for its 2017 Project Degree Completion Award. The annual prize works to identify, recognize, and reward institutions that employ innovative approaches to improve retention and degree completion. One of the five finalists will be named the 2017 Project Degree Completion Award winner during the APLU Annual Meeting, November 12-14, in Washington, D.C. In this first part of a five-part series, APLU profiles Boise State University and its Freshmen Success Task Force.
Boise State University created the Freshmen Success Task Force in 2004 to improve freshmen retention and four-year graduation rates. The initiative’s goal was to raise institution-wide awareness about the importance of retention and graduation while Boise State aimed to reach parity with peer institutions’ retention and graduation rates.
Recognizing that academic success is the best predictor of freshmen retention, Boise State redesigned lower-division core mathematics courses that often impede students’ progress toward their degree or cause them to drop out altogether. The university also overhauled English placement and remedial English courses. Finally, the launch of a Learning Assistant program provided peer-to-peer group study and skill-building sessions to support students in traditionally difficult courses. This peer learning program steadily increased regular participant grade point averages and pass rates of targeted courses.
The comprehensive effort markedly increased retention and graduation. By 2015, campus efforts helped increase overall retention by 15 percentage points, with increases of 21 percentage points for underrepresented students and 13 percentage points for Pell-eligible students. The initiative also helped increase the institution’s graduation rate by 10 percentage points.
Learn more about the other 2017 Project Degree Completion Award finalists.