As part of its ongoing efforts to increase degree completion, APLU named California State University, Fresno; Cleveland State University; Montana State University; the University of California, Riverside; and Wayne State University as finalists for its 2016 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 2016 Project Degree Completion Award winner Sunday, November 13 in Austin, Texas during the APLU Annual Meeting. In this final part of a five-part series, APLU profiles Wayne State University’s Undergraduate Success Initiatives.
Wayne State University’s undergraduate student population is the most diverse student body in the state of Michigan, with 50 percent of the incoming class Pell-eligible and 38 percent first-generation college students. Over the past four years, Wayne State has raised its graduation rate by 9 percent, a rate of increase that puts it above the 95th percentile nationally with respect to the rate of increase among four-year public institutions.
These gains are the result of a cross-cutting and transformative investment in student success. Those efforts included the hiring of 45 professional academic advisors, the launch of an academic advisor training academy, systematic investments in advisor tools and early alerts, and the formation of strategic graduation action committee. These activities are mutually reinforcing and synergistic. The advisor training academy, the technology investments, and the strategic graduation action committee all served to align and focus the efforts of academic advisors and maximize their impact – despite the fact that they are deployed across the campus with a decentralized advisor reporting structure.
As these efforts matured, Wayne State’s institutional learning advanced more rapidly and a broader segment of the campus engaged with the student success initiative. Early gains also elicited institution-wide buy-in. Student success emerged as a primary focus area of Wayne State’s 2016 strategic plan and as a core element of a re-focused campus mission and identity. Several institutional learning frameworks emerged, including frameworks for capacity-building in Student Success, twelve keys for four-year graduation, and the use of equity scorecards.
Additional efforts to promote student success are also underway, including a revision to the general education program and more strategic use of financial aid. Future goals include closing and narrowing achievement gaps and removing all institutional barriers to four-year degree completion. Wayne State is committed to achieving a 50 percent graduation rate by the end of its current strategic plan while maintaining its mission of access, opportunity, and educational achievement.
Learn more about the other 2016 Project Degree Completion Award finalists.