Student Success Initiative Update
There’s a simple truth about UTSA that we don’t acknowledge often enough: we’ve seen dramatic increases in retention and graduation rates over the last decade. Later this month we will have more positive news to report regarding this year’s numbers.
Our consultants at EAB and Ruffalo Noel Levitz have commented to us time and time again that improvements of this magnitude are highly unusual within the public university landscape. Data from the Texas Coordinating Board Higher Education Almanac confirm that we are the fastest improving institution in Texas. We are well on our way to becoming a model for student success advancement at the national level.
This brings me to another truth: the efforts of so many over the last several years to improve our retention and graduation rates have worked! We are on a steep trajectory that will see us exceeding national averages in a few short years, and it is in no small part due to activities that occurred long before my arrival, such as the Graduation Rate Improvement Plan (GRIP) and Coordinated and Linked Approaches to Student Success (CLASS).
But we have more work to do. The UT System Board of Regents has asked me to focus on continuing our student success momentum by setting and meeting aggressive goals for retention and graduation. The first step was to appoint a task force to the Presidential Initiative on Student Success last fall.
This task force has worked diligently over the last year—together with our consultants at EAB—to put our strategy into place. I am pleased to share the results of their efforts: our new Integrated Student Success Plan. The plan outlines a student-focused approach to structuring our work over the next two years on the way to achieving our unified vision of student success.
Given the sense of urgency on this topic, efforts over the last year went far beyond analysis and planning. Several tactics were put into motion to continue the steady march toward our goals.
We know, for instance, that retention rates for UTSA students living on campus are consistently higher than those who live off campus – especially for our first-generation students. This fall we will launch a new initiative to focus on freshman dorms and residential experiences, building on efforts such as our new First Generation Living and Learning Community and a pilot to offer double-room residence options at a highly attractive price point.
We also know that faculty are the heartbeat of student success on this campus. The successful implementation of a pilot program to provide success marker academic progress reports serves as a proof point.
Hitting our retention and graduation targets is only part of the equation when it comes to fostering a culture of student success. Our efforts must be campus-wide and highly integrated, which is why our aim to be a model of student success is one of our three institutional destinations. Creating a Vice Presidential position dedicated to the effort was another important step, and Interim Vice President for Student Success Rhonda M. Gonzales has built a leadership team to carry us forward.
With the finalization of our new Integrated Student Success Plan, the first phase of our student success initiative has come to a close. This initiative will now move into operational mode with Dr. Gonzales and her team overseeing the strategies outlined in the plan in close collaboration with faculty and other units throughout the university. The Student Success Task Force will evolve into smaller working groups to address specific issues and pull in relevant faculty/staff expertise as needed.
I am very proud of UTSA’s student success efforts and the passion I see in all of you to ensure we are providing our students with every opportunity to excel. This is profound, life-changing work that we do – thank you for joining me in this noble pursuit.