Today I am pleased to announce the first of five initiatives I am launching this fall to support a vision for UTSA as the university of the future. The President’s Initiative on Student Success will take a student-centric approach to dramatically improving our retention and graduation rates. I believe this is the highest priority for us to address as a community, thus the first initiative to launch.
It is no secret that student persistence is one of our most critical issues, and one that cannot be solved solely by attending to the needs of our enrolled students. For example, we must look at how UTSA can partner with the City of San Antonio to strengthen college preparedness of children in our local school districts. Likewise, it is imperative that our graduates are ready to enter the workforce with as little debt as possible and find the prosperity and professional satisfaction they deserve after earning their degree. Student success is integral to this notion of “cradle to career” education.
I have asked the Student Success Task Force to develop an integrated plan that considers the continuum from K-12 through recruitment, enrollment, academic progress, career development and placement, all with an essential student-centric focus.
The group will build on the priorities and good work of the Coordinated and Linked Approaches to Student Success (CLASS) initiative led by Interim Provost Mauli Agrawal. We have already made some important progress. Last year, our four-year graduation rate increased by 4% overall, and by 7% when omitting students in the Coordinated Admission Program (CAP) with U.T. Austin. The fact that UTSA’s CLASS initiatives received two of the six awards granted by UT System’s Student Success Quantum Leap initiative is an external acknowledgement of our momentum in this area.
The Student Success Initiative will be chaired by Dr. Rhonda M. Gonzales, Associate Vice Provost for Strategic Initiatives in Academic Affairs. Dr. Gonzales’s experience as an American Council on Education (ACE) Fellow focused on student success, together with her leadership on the Quantum Leap student success initiative, make her uniquely qualified to head this effort.
To assist the task force, we will be utilizing the services of EAB, a highly respected firm specializing in identifying analytics-driven best practices for supporting, retaining and graduating students. Together they will examine some of the best practices of model research-intensive, Hispanic-Serving Institutions such as U.C. Irvine and Arizona State University. With this collective effort, I am certain we will be equally effective in moving the dial on student success here at UTSA.
The timeline for this initiative and the others to come reflect an urgency and the need for momentum. All initiatives will directly support one of our five proposed institutional themes and will be categorized as Presidential (transformational), Strategic (critical to our ability to thrive as an institution) or Tactical (short term with impact on specific targeted areas). Initiatives will be led by a task force or committee selected for their broad representation and their diverse viewpoints, backgrounds and expertise.
Each initiative will have a dedicated webpage where you can find additional information and updates on the progress of their work. I encourage you to visit the Student Success Initiative webpage where you will find a list of task force members, a timeline and a summary of their charge.
Keep an eye on your inbox in the days to come for announcements regarding Presidential Initiatives on Strategic Enrollment and Finance & Budget Model—both of which will be highly integrated with the work of the Student Success task force. In addition, next week, you will learn about two Strategic Initiatives launching this fall: one on Tuition and Fees and another on Weighted Student Credit Hours & Formula Funding.