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APLU Report: Campus-Wide Engagement Fundamental to Successful Degree Completion Reforms

Washington, DC – Campus-wide engagement is essential to achieving increased student retention and graduation, according to a new study the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities (APLU) released today. The report is available at www.aplu.org/PDCaward.

In an effort to help institutions adopt evidence-based strategies to increase student success, APLU released the analysis of degree completion initiatives that public universities have undertaken from across the country. The report, All In: Increasing Degree Completion through Campus-Wide Engagement, examines the efficacy of a variety of strategies to increase student retention, reduce students’ time to degree, and close the achievement gap.

“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.

APLU and the American Association of State Colleges and Universities launched Project Degree Completion in 2012 with the aim of awarding 3.8 million additional bachelor’s degrees across both associations’ membership by 2025. The effort represents the public university contribution to the national goal of working-age adults having a degree by 2025.

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