July 17, 2018  

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Mississippi Public Universities Improve Retention Rates Through Focused Efforts

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An analysis conducted by the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Federal Student Aid found that students who take out college loans, but don’t graduate, are three times more likely to default than borrowers who complete.

Mississippi Public Universities are focused on supporting students, so they can stay on track and graduate. Student retention efforts are custom-designed to fit the students’ needs.

The University College staff at Mississippi Valley State University is helping to ease the transition from the first to the second year of college through its Sophomore Year Experience (SYE) program.

SYE is a retention tool that is used to ensure that students develop a connection to the university. To increase and promote sophomore retention, University College conducts academic advising, hosts workshops and encourages leadership development. The program has an ‘Academic Success Coach’ component, which is used to mentor students. Mentors are assigned as ‘Success Coaches’ to track and monitor the attendance and academic progress of all sophomore students.  They also provide intervention and referral to campus resources, if needed.

The Student Success Center at Mississippi University for Women (MUW) brings a variety of services together under one umbrella to ensure the success of all MUW students. A place where all students receive advice, feedback, and strategies in various academic areas, its mission is to provide students with the necessary tools for academic success at MUW and beyond. The services offered are free to all MUW students.

Alcorn State University employs GradesFirst, a web-based student performance monitoring system that provides automated student services and communication among faculty, academic advisors and students. Progress reports and early alerts are the hallmarks of GradesFirst. The retention specialist also:

  • Monitors academic progress of students experiencing academic difficulties;
  • Serves as the liaison among various student services and departments;
  • Counsels students to continue their education and not withdraw from the university;
  • Maintains the Online Class Attendance system, and

Select faculty at The University of Southern Mississippi (USM) participate in a national development initiative designed to expand the use of evidence-based teaching practices shown to promote college student completion and success.

The ACUE (Association of College and University Educators) Faculty Development Institute at USM enables educators to learn, hone, and practice the teaching strategies shown to foster students’ success in classrooms across the country without compromising rigor. As part of USM’s intensive, eight-week program, faculty are engaged in a subset of ACUE’s Course in Effective Teaching Practices, which focuses on research-based techniques for promoting active learning, increasing student persistence, delivering an effective lecture, and facilitating engaging class discussions.

Promoting a positive academic experience is a major student success goal for Mississippi State University (MSU). MSU’s Center for Student Success plays an important role in achieving this mission, A joint effort between the Center for Student Success and The Learning Center, the program provides supplemental instruction free of charge and helps students learn how to integrate course content and study skills with help from fellow students.

Along with the supplemental instruction program, MSU offers the Freshman Year Navigators program, First Year Experience courses, and other initiatives that help the center establish relationships with students, especially those in need of support. On-campus involvement is another important aspect of student success. Joining one or more of the university’s more than 400 clubs or organizations is one way students can forge lifelong relationships and find support to help them stay the course to graduation.

Retention efforts have paid off. Over the past five years, freshman to sophomore year retention rates have improved from 76.7 percent to 79 percent.

At the University of Mississippi, 85.3 percent of freshmen undergraduates enrolled in the Fall semester of 2015 continued their studies at UM. The growing retention rate is largely due to The Center for Student Success and the First-Year Experience (CSSFYE) and FASTrack (Foundation for Academic Success Track), which provide professional academic and advising and support and a learning community to freshman, respectively.

Efforts in the CSSFYE increased with the addition of an Academic Support Center, a First-Year Experience Office, Veterans and Military Services and Freshmen Retention Services. The Center also works with closely with first generation college students and under-represented minorities to help with the transition into college life. The FASTrack program provides smaller general education courses for students to offer individual attention from peer and academic mentors. The program launched in 2007 with 25 students and it now serves more than 400.

Perseverance pays off. Studies have found that investing in higher education provides a significant return on investment.

The College Board’s Education Pays 2016 report notes that:

  • The median four-year college graduate who enrolls at age 18 and graduates in four years can expect to earn enough relative to the median high school graduate by age 34 to compensate for being out of the labor force for four years and for paying the full cost of tuition, fees, books and supplies without any grant aid.
  • Compared with high school graduates with median earnings working full time, the break-even age for college graduates with median earnings is 34 if they pay the average public four-year and private nonprofit four-year published tuition and fees and books and supplies for four years. The break-even age increases to 37 if they pay these expenses for five years; it is 31 if they receive the average amount of grant aid and pay four years of net tuition and fees and buy books and supplies for four years.