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University System Student Retention Rates Hit Record High

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Atlanta — March 12, 2003

If you enroll in a public college or university in Georgia today, your chances of making it through that critical first year are better than ever - and at some Georgia institutions, on par with retention rates at highly selective, prestigious national institutions.

The University System of Georgia recorded a retention rate of 80.4 percent in the Fall of 2002, for students who enter college and remain in the University System from their freshman to sophomore year. Institution-specific retention rates also are on the rise within the University System, now at a record high 73.9 percent. This rate reflects the retention of students who enroll at a specific University System college or university and return to that same institution the following year.

“The largest number of students who drop out of college leave after the first year,” said Senior Vice Chancellor for Academics and Fiscal Affairs Dr. Daniel Papp. In a presentation today to the Board of Regents on the University System’s retention and P-16 efforts, Papp emphasized that the latest retention figures are proof that the Regents strengthened admissions requirements, which went into effect in the fall of 2001, are having a positive impact on improving retention rates. “If we can keep students into the second year, they have a good chance of persisting until they earn a degree,” Papp said. “Our enhanced admissions efforts, and our partnerships with other educational agencies, are reaping rewards.”

Across the System, entering students are recording higher SAT scores and a higher completion rate of the College Preparatory Curriculum (a set of required academically rigorous courses), Papp said. These, along with increased requirements in math, are direct results of the Regents’ 2001 admissions requirements.

“We have achieved higher than 80 percent retention as a System and some individual institutions are even higher,” Papp said. Georgia Tech and the University of Georgia are at 90 and 91 percent respectively. Papp said that retention rates at these institutions “are not just on par with select, prestigious, national institutions, but in some cases they are even higher.”

Papp noted that as students arrive at college better prepared, they are able to tackle and meet more rigorous college requirements and expectations. In addition, he cited a number of specific actions that System institutions have undertaken in order to assist first-year students, including the expansion of “Freshmen Experience” programs, improved advising, intervention programs for students who need academic assistance, mid-term grading, and the sharing of “best practice” programs among System institutions. In addition, the System’s Minority Advising Program and Minority Recruitment Office have helped minority students make the transition from high school to college.

Also impacting the University System’s retention rates are the Board of Regents’ strategic partnerships with other educational agencies, such as the Department of Education (DOE) and the Department of Technical and Adult Education (DTAE), aimed at creating a “seamless” educational experience from pre-K through college.

The regents also heard from Dr. Frank Butler, vice chancellor for Academics, Faculty and Student Affairs and Dr. Jan Kettlewell, associate vice chancellor for P-16 Initiatives, on current and proposed University System programs that promote seamless education.

“Seamless cooperation among the state’s educational agencies can improve student performance and preparation and has a direct connection to improved retention rates,” Kettlewell said. She outlined on-going efforts such as the University System’s nationally recognized Postsecondary Readiness Enrichment Program (PREP) for students in at-risk situations, the System’s efforts to strengthen teacher preparation and improve teacher recruitment, and initiatives to improve transition from high school to college as examples of seamless cooperation.

A proposed Partnership for Reform in Science and Mathematics (PRISM) collaboration between K-12 schools and the University System will seek to further strengthen math and science programs and student achievement, Kettlewell said. Long-term, she said the PRISM program would result in additionally enhanced student preparation and, ultimately, retention.

In another example of partnership, Butler said that the University System is building on its successful joint degree programs with DTAE. The current Associate of Applied Science and the Bachelor of Applied Science degrees are being studied to eventually provide an on-line BAS degree through four or more System institutions. “This online degree would serve DTAE graduates throughout the state,” Butler said.

The presentation on retention improvements and seamless education efforts was part of the on-going review of the Board of Regents’ Strategic Plan and its 11 principal goals. Specifically, the presentation focused on Goal #4 - student retention - and Goal #9 - cooperation with other Georgia educational agencies.

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