Colorado State University Receives Peer-Reviewed Award for Student Retention and Support Program

Colorado State University has received the Overall Excellence Award by EBI MAP-Works via a peer-reviewed committee with representatives from 11 colleges, universities and institutes. The award recognizes the university for its use of the MAP-Works student retention tool, a 150 question survey assessment voluntarily taken by first year students early in the fall semester. The program helps identify early if students are at risk of falling behind in certain areas – and allows the university to intervene with one-on-one meetings with the student to help them succeed.

More than 90 percent of CSU’s first year students have taken the survey this year. The assessment asks a wide range of questions about the student’s collegiate experience including study habits, stress levels, academic confidence, time management, class attendance, mental health concerns, campus involvement and sense of belonging.

The assessment provides students with a customized report that identifies where they are doing well and also gives them the opportunity to correct their course and seek resources if they are falling behind. Students who complete the survey have a one-on-one meeting with their housing resident assistant or and Off-Campus Life staff member if they live off campus. Those meetings are already underway on CSU’s campus.

"Of all the students who will leave the university from a given first-year cohort, more than half will do so by the end of their freshman year,” said Paul Thayer, associate vice president for Student Affairs and special advisor to the Provost for retention. “This early indication of where students are doing well and where they are struggling is so important because it gives students an opportunity to correct their course, and if necessary, seek resources before falling behind or deciding to leave the university.”

Private information about a student’s homesickness, academic concerns, mental health and behavior risks also is shared with professional staff who refer students to resources on campus if necessary.

Review of the fall 2010 CSU cohort shows that 85 percent of the students who completed the survey and met with their RA were retained by CSU, compared to a 66 percent retention rate among students who neither completed the survey nor met with their resident assistant.

“Although we can’t definitively say that MAP-Works increases retention rates, this outreach along with many student success initiatives, may have positively impacted first year retention rates,” said Gaye DiGregorio, executive director of the Center for Advising and Student Achievement.

A recent Noel-Levitz study found that half of the students who leave their university never had a significant interaction with a faculty member, staff member, or resident assistant.

The assessment helps Student Affairs staff members develop other specific retention strategies, in addition to personalized meetings. One out of every 10 students at CSU indicate that they are “extremely homesick,” to the point of it distressing them and having an impact on academics.

“Knowing that, CSU staff connect students to residence assistants, other hall staff and student leadership programs to help students feel welcomed, connected, and supported both inside the classroom and outside the classroom to boost retention,” said Laura Giles, director of Residence Life.

“These efforts have helped develop a culture of care to make critical referrals to help students become successful in their first year at CSU,” Metzger said. CSU consistently ranks higher than peers in MAP-Works factors related to On-Campus Living Environment including sense of belonging, residence hall environment, and social aspects of the halls.

Leading up to the one-on-one conversations, housing directors coach resident assistants on how to have meaningful conversations about assisting students and making referrals to university resources, said Teresa Metzger, assistant director of Residence Education.

“As a resident assistant it is a strenuous process to meet with each resident individually,” said Nathan Melia, a fourth year RA in Aspen Hall. “But if we take the time to do this it has a positive effect on our relationship because it helps me do things differently and tailor each interaction to what my resident currently needs. Ultimately, graduation is the goal.”

Colorado State began early intervention and support efforts in 2000 and has been participating in the MAP-Works program since 2007. The MAP-works program is a collaboration among Residence Life, Off Campus Life, CASA and Student Success Initiatives. More than 1,500 colleges and universities participate in the program. CSU was selected for the award from an extensive applicant pool of applicants because of the university’s comprehensive integration of the MAP-Works project on campus.