As part of its ongoing efforts to increase degree completion, APLU named the University of Central Florida, the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, and the University of Rhode Island as finalists for its 2019 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 three finalists will be named the 2019 Degree Completion Award winner during the APLU Annual Meeting, November 10-12, in San Diego, California. In this post, APLU profiles the University of Rhode Island’s efforts to improve retention and degree completion.
The University of Rhode Island (URI) launched a multipronged approach to improving student success in its 2010 academic strategic plan. The effort has produced impressive results. URI’s undergraduate degree completions increased by 78 percent from a baseline average of 2,019 per year to more than 3,600 degrees awarded last year, reflecting a cumulative increase of 10,000 degrees awarded over the past decade. The university implemented a new financial aid model, which helped increase the share of students with financial need receiving aid from 77 percent in 2010 to 92 percent in 2016. URI made strategic investments in professional advisors and curriculum maps for all programs as well.
A new Office for the Advancement of Teaching and Learning engages faculty in new pedagogies, improving student success and academic quality. A heightened focus on high-impact experiential learning resulted in a doubling (from 4,010 to 8,541) of the number of students participating in credit-bearing experiential learning opportunities. An early-alert advising system identifies at-risk students and provides advisors with resources fostering academic success. Finally, the university created a winter J-term helping students who have fallen behind get back on track.
Overall, four- and six-year graduation rates increased by 14.5 percent and 8.4 percent, reflecting gains of 38 percent and 14 percent, respectively. Among students receiving Pell grants, the six-year graduation increased from 47 percent to 61 percent, reducing the equity gap from 15 percent to 7 percent. This progress was achieved even as the number of Pell students increased by 76 percent between 2008 and 2013. The six-year graduation equity gap for underrepresented students was also cut in half over the same period. Student success gains have created unanticipated institutional benefits with increased retention creating revenue that contributed to supporting 60 new faculty positions, which will further advance student success.