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Recruitment and Retention Committee
OVERVIEW: In September, the committee met and decided two things: First, Charles Ramirez Berg (professor of communications) was selected as chair elect. Second, undergraduate retention and recruitment would be the focus for the academic year.
In our November 2010 meeting, the committee met with Vice Provost Gretchen Ritter and Associate Vice Provost for Information Management Analysis Kristi Fisher and discussed first-year attrition rates and first-year retention rates in addition to the graduation rates among first-time-in-college (FTIC) students. The information provided during this meeting is the basis for this year’s report and how The University of Texas at Austin can better serve the needs of its underrepresented student population, which includes but is not limited to first generation students, low-income students, minority students, and students from regional areas.
PROGRAMS: As underrepresented students are admitted to the University, there are a variety of programs to assist them in being successful while enrolled at UT. These programs include:
- Division of Diversity and Community Engagement
- Equal Opportunity in Engineering
- Freshmen Interest Groups
- Gateway Scholars Program
- Intercollegiate Athletics, Student Academic Services
- Joint Admissions Medical Program
- Longhorn Link Program
- Longhorn Scholar Program
- Texas Interdisciplinary Program
- Texas Undergraduate Leadership Program
- UTurn Program
- Women in Engineering
- Office of Student Financial Services
- Sanger Career and Learning Center
- Undergraduate Writing Center
Although these programs cater to these groups, some students are still left underserved, while others are being served by more than one of these programs. Colleges are not using these programs in the same manner, such as partnering with each of these programs to share information about these students’ successes and shortcomings. In addition, most faculty members are not connected to lower-division students, which makes it harder for FTIC students to adapt during their first few semesters at UT. There are also no data structures to link the programs together. These issues can lead to retention and recruitment difficulties for the University.
DATA: Following are some of the data shared with the committee by Kristi Fisher. These helpful data display information on FTIC students and retention rates by college and cohort. The databases used to gather this information are available online through Information Management and Analysis. Access can be granted through this office to view PROJECT IQ with the “Cognos Viewer.” Successful use of these tools can be particularly helpful in identifying specific sub-groups and trends in snapshot data.
Table 3: *Minority excludes foreign, white-only, and unknown race categories
Tables 1-3 break down the different student populations in terms of attrition rates, students who are continuing their education in the college that they were initially admitted to and students who decided to remain at UT but switch colleges within their first year at UT in the school year 2009-10.
Table 4 shows graduation rates for all FTIC students from 2004-10, whereas Table 5 displays the rates for students who are first-generation students, as tagged by the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). When looking at the first tables alone, it seems as if UT students are doing well with remaining here at the University. However, when you compare Tables 4 and 5 you see the almost 10% difference in students graduating from UT, with first-generation students having a 69.59% graduation rate compared to the 80.15% rate of all FTIC students.
This information is startling because from the data you can interpret that first-generation students are not doing as well as their counterparts. Dr. Ritter noted during the November meeting that we have a higher percentage of first-generation students who are unprepared than some of our peers institutions, such as Virginia and Michigan. In addition, compared to other state flagship institutions, UT is within, but on the lower end of, the range of retention rates. Dr. Ritter suggested that this is, in part, due to Texas demographics and the high number of first-generation college students applying to UT.
SOLUTIONS: What does all this mean? It means that for underrepresented students to succeed, we have to evaluate which programs are working and not working and how we can improve them.
We need to know which students are enrolling and declining to be in the programs listed above and why. This will help us reach out to students who are at risk and need assistance. As mentioned before, there is also need for a consistent, institutional data stream for tracking student participation in academic support programs and their performance histories inside and outside of those programs. This could be vital in determining if the academic assistance programs in their current form are actually beneficial to underrepresented students.
Final Recommendations: The Council of Academic Support Programs (CASP) was created on May 10, 2010, to support collaboration among academic support programs by sharing information about best practices, promoting increased coordination in participant selection and programming, developing common standards for program assessment, as well as reviewing recent research findings on academic development and success.
The committee suggests that a Faculty Council member of the Standing Committee for Recruitment and Retention should be included in this council. In addition to this suggestion, the Faculty Council should consider the following ideas:
By considering all of this information, the Faculty Council can aid in increasing the retention and graduation rates of students who are currently enrolled at the University, which translates to a solid recruitment mechanism for students from underrepresented populations because they will see that they can enroll at UT and actually be successful.
- Helping students create (and maintain) academic identities early in their college career.
- Connecting students in academic success programs with faculty.
- Facilitating communication between academic success programs.
- Course transformation programs – making large introductory courses accessible and “student-centered” to encourage participation and success in students’ first few years of college.
- Linking admissions->financial aid->registrar data on student academic progress could be very beneficial for monitoring student success and retention rates.
Cherise Smith, chair