Educational Policy Institute Honors Colorado State University with 2011 Outstanding Student Retention Program Award

In the past year, Colorado State University officials directly helped an estimated 18,000 students succeed and stay in school.

The programs are different for every student – from working with professors on research to one-on-one advising and tutoring – but the positive outcome is the same because Colorado State University has one of the Outstanding Student Retention Programs in the nation, according to the Educational Policy Institute.

The prestigious honor – awarded to only a few colleges and universities each year – singles out Colorado State’s expertise in such areas as financial aid packages, course availability and support systems.

Paul Thayer, associate vice president for Student Affairs and special advisor to the Provost for Retention, will accept the 2011 award and talk about CSU’s efforts at the organization’s June International Conference on Student Success.

“Colorado State University has a comprehensive, multi-pronged approach to ensuring student success throughout the college experience with a variety of initiatives that create distinct undergraduate experiences and integrate academic and co-curricular activities,” said Provost Rick Miranda. “We are pleased that the Educational Policy Institute has recognized the hard work of so many people and programs across campus.”

The Outstanding Student Retention Program Award is presented annually to a four- or two-year institution that exhibits excellence in the development and implementation of a student retention program. The Educational Policy Institute International is an organization of researchers and policy analysts dedicated to enhancing knowledge of critical barriers facing students and families throughout the educational pipeline.

Highlights of Colorado State programs recognized through the award:

First-year retention: After decades of nearly static retention rates (about 82 percent), the retention rate reached an historic high of 84.6 percent for the most recent first-year student cohort.

Academic probation: Beginning in 2001, the rate at which new freshmen were placed on academic probation rose steadily, reaching 19.5 percent in 2007. Probation rates have now declined to 15.7 percent.

Graduation gap: For the most recent year measured by the Education Trust College Online, Colorado State ranked first among its peers for the lowest gap between graduating minority students and graduating non-minority students.

Student financial concerns: The university created “Commitment to Colorado,” promising grant funds at least equal to the amount of annual tuition and fees for Colorado residents eligible for the Pell Grant and at least half the amount of tuition and fees for students whose families earn Colorado’s median household income or less.

Student transition challenges early in the first year: The university’s “Taking Stock at Mid-Semester” Program engaged 82 percent of all new freshmen in an assessment of their early experience, conferences with residence hall staff or academic advisors and early intervention and referral.

Students in academically focused learning communities: Students in the variety of learning communities progressed to their second year and earned higher grade point averages than the rest of campus.

Attrition over the first two years: Because 83 percent of all students who leave do so in the first two years, the plan instituted transition programs that span the entire period, including sophomore learning communities, a “Year 2 @ CSU” student conference and first-year mentoring programs. Academic Support coordinators in academic departments focused on proactive intervention for students’ transition issues.

In November, Colorado State officials also reached out to about 400 former students who had completed 90 credits or more and were very close to completing bachelor’s degrees. The effort was part of Gov. Bill Ritter’s month-long campaign called Complete College Colorado, which was designed to highlight the state’s commitment to providing access and affordability to a quality education as well as recognize the economic benefits of a college degree.