Teaching and Learning: Evaluation and Improvement: Core Component 4.C

4.C - Core Component 4.C

The institution demonstrates a commitment to educational improvement through ongoing attention to retention, persistence, and completion rates in its degree and certificate programs.

  1. The institution has defined goals for student retention, persistence, and completion that are ambitious but attainable and appropriate to its mission, student populations, and educational offerings.
  2. The institution collects and analyzes information on student retention, persistence, and completion of its programs.
  3. The institution uses information on student retention, persistence, and completion of programs to make improvements as warranted by the data.
  4. The institution’s processes and methodologies for collecting and analyzing information on student retention, persistence, and completion of programs reflect good practice. (Institutions are not required to use IPEDS definitions in their determination of persistence or completion rates. Institutions are encouraged to choose measures that are suitable to their student populations, but institutions are accountable for the validity of their measures.)


4.C.1  ASU has defined institutional goals for student retention, persistence, and completion and plans to achieve the following metrics by 2025 and beyond:

ASU has achieved major improvements to graduation rates for all of its undergraduates. The student cohort that entered as freshmen in Fall 2002 achieved a first-year retention rate of 76.7%. Thirty percent graduated within four years, and 56.2% within six years. Students entering in Fall 2012 persisted into the second year at a rate of 83.8% and graduated within four years at the rate of 51.6%, 21.6 points higher than the 2002 cohort. The six-year rate is forecasted at 67.8%, 11.6 points higher. For Arizona students, these measures of success are still higher -- 86.2%, 53.3%, and 70.5%, respectively. The graduation rate increases to 74% when National Clearinghouse data are used to track students who initially enrolled and succeeded at ASU as freshmen but who transferred elsewhere.

4.C.2  ASU continuously tracks and monitors data related to student success, including student retention, persistence, and completion rates for students pursuing degrees and certificates. The University Office of Institutional Analysis (UOIA) calculates ASU’s official student retention, persistence and completion rates and provides data dashboards, common data set submissions, historical summaries (Facts at a Glance), and strategic planning summaries that support institutional decision-making, planning, and reporting.

Enrollment data and responses from the Persistence Survey are used in the production of retention and persistence rates for the overall cohorts, as well as for particular subgroups (ethnicity, Pell eligibility, state residency, etc.). Each fall, UOEEE attempts to contact first-year students (from the previous fall) who did not return to ASU. Feedback provided by former students, parents, and family members provides the university with valuable information about why students did not return to ASU, their current activities, and whether they plan to return to ASU. These data continuously drive proactive programmatic improvements and inform the development of new programs and initiatives. 

The ASU Connections Survey, a university-wide survey administered by UOEEE and University Housing to all first-year students during their initial month at ASU, allows new students to provide feedback on their initial experiences and receive immediate, personal guidance and support for the issues they may be facing during their transition to ASU. Outreach activities are conducted by academic colleges and administrative support units, and include phone calls, emails, workshops and one-on-one appointments. A similar survey and outreach process is conducted each fall for new veteran students. A survey for new transfer students was piloted in the three Arts and Sciences colleges during the spring 2017 semester and is scheduled for campus-wide implementation in fall 2017. 

The predictive analytics system and internal communication system at ASU are going through a major upgrade, as described in Criterion 3.D.3. Civitas provides predictive analytics nightly on every student. If a significant change has occurred, the appropriate personnel will be alerted through Salesforce for immediate action. The predictive analytics system is supplemented with other ASU data that provide additional (usually daily) early alerts on a number of key variables influencing retention and graduation and also can be transmitted through Salesforce for immediate action. 

4.C.3  Continued improvements in retention and graduation rates will play a crucial role in ASU’s ability to achieve its enrollment and degree targets. 

Analysis of retention and persistence data is conducted across the universityCollege-level retention data are provided to deans, and academic units are evaluated and rewarded based on their retention results. ASU colleges are held accountable for retention within the university, not merely within their college. The entire retention apparatus at ASU is centered on university-level retention and completion. Academic units monitor students’ progress using e-Advisor and the retention dashboard, intervene when students display an inability to progress in their major or a lack of interest in their chosen major(s), and assist in finding majors that better fit their skills and interests. Colleges also examine year-to-year enrollment and participation data by academic programs, degree type, and other appropriate subgroups to develop strategies for facilitating student success. Staff members from academic units and support programs analyze participation data, specifically the percentage of successful students who engaged in a particular program or used a specific university service. These data are used to refine existing programs and services and to develop new initiatives.

Academic colleges are charged with engaging students from the outset in the residence halls and in college communities to aid in improving retention and graduation rates. Individual academic units are also encouraged to develop internal systems for supporting this crucial student group. In addition to tailored Welcome Week activities and ASU101 classes, colleges have implemented camps for new freshmen at locations away from campus (e.g., E2 Camp, Camp Carey) as well as events on campus during ASU’s Welcome Week.

Working with the academic units and support service providers, ASU centrally reviews its extraordinary data to design university-wide initiatives, regardless of the chosen major, to improve the retention and graduation of students in general; but more specifically, to design programs intended to address vulnerabilities of subgroups of students identified by increasingly sophisticated data analytics. Among the most extensive initiatives are: 

  • Redesigning courses with suboptimal success rates while maintaining rigor -- ASU is redesigning a number of the largest introductory (gateway) courses with relatively low pass rates as blended active/adaptive courses as mentioned previously.  Successful efforts to date include introductory math, biology, history and chemistry courses, and similar course redesign efforts are underway in large enrollment economics and psychology courses. The re-design of calculus is to follow soon. A new initiative that involves adapting this approach to a collection of ‘connected’ courses in a single major will be in development soon.
  • Refining and improving the technology systems that support student success -- “ASU is working with a team of vendors to build an integrated academic, financial, and career planning technology platform ... that will provide more data to students and their advisors about curriculum planning and athways that assure improved time to degree, generate earlier alerts to faculty and advisors about academic, financial, and social issues that could lead to attrition, and be a source of information and advice that links current decisions to the potential impact on long-term financial plans and career goals.” The initial deployment will take place during the spring 2017 semester.
  • A new in-house support center for ASU Online that uses mobile technology and social media applications to deliver academic, financial, and social support through data driven success coaching. Success Coaching partners students and coaches in a thoughtful and creative process that guides them to reaching their full personal and professional potential. Through quality conversations, effective listening and meaningful exploration, the coach will focus with the student on goal setting, discovery, overcoming obstacles, and achievement to maximize their experience at ASU.
  • An updated learning management system (LMS) is currently in the RFP process that will address stability issues, better integrate with the student success suite for data analytics purposes, and include advances in online pedagogy. 
  • An interactive and personalized mindset application (GetSet) was launched to facilitate community building and encourage positive mindsets for struggling students. A preliminary review of the results showed that moderate use of the mindset application produced improvement in the first semester GPA by 0.26 on average. Improvement of the most vulnerable students was greater, as expected. Their improvement was as much as 0.35, a very significant increase since it raised the average GPA for the most vulnerable students safely above the 2.5 threshold, below which retention often falls off.  
  • Continuing to improve staff training and on-campus support facilities and activities -- Several colleges have improved or are in the process of improving their advising centers, and residence halls have built dedicated facilities for advising and student success programming. ASU is currently testing the impact of different advising interventions and the intensity of advising contacts to aid in decision making about advising investments. 

Other retention initiatives:

  • ASU implemented Project LEAD (Learn • Explore • Advance • Design), a program that integrates three courses and thus more effectively facilitates learning of course concepts and further develops students’ critical thinking and communication skills. Pilot efforts have been successful in boosting the retention of students who entered ASU with lower levels of preparation. Increases in retention rates and GPAs occurred each term since the initial pilot in the 2014 – 2015 academic year. Fall 2016 LEAD students retained to spring semester at a higher rate (N = 472, 93.2%) and achieved higher academic success (average GPA of 2.85) than their peer group (N = 1871, 89.6%, 2.60). Over 1,000 first-time freshmen will participate in LEAD in fall 2017.
  • ASU’s SEED (Student Engagement and Employment Development)program provides incentives to ASU units to hire students currently working at off-campus jobs, thus relieving scheduling and travel pressures that impede study time. SEED helps entering freshmen adjust to college, secure on-campus employment, and become more engaged in the campus community. The program was designed to give students the opportunity to have bi-weekly supervisor meetings and to participate in other developmental opportunities, including a First Year Success coaching session and a career services program every semester. In the 2014-2015 academic year, 206 students were hired through the program, increasing year-to-year retention to 92.0% compared to those not hired in the program at 83%. Eligibility criteria for program participation include entering freshman who can benefit the most from the program, and research results are shaping the experience for  more than 11,000 on-campus student employees. Findings from student participants from the past two years indicate that the students had good relationships with their supervisors, believed the job prepared them to be successful and competent in a professional work setting, and working on-campus inspires a desire to achieve and build networks in the campus community.  
  • Sharing innovations among universities -- ASU took a lead role in forming the University Innovation Alliance (https://theuia.org/), a group of eleven large public institutions with similar commitments to expanding student opportunity and success. ASU’s participation has led to the implementation of financial aid interventions, process mapping to improve the impact of student communications, and advising strategies.  

Educational Outreach and Student Services (EOSS) also uses institutional retention data to inform decisions about the development and refinement of student programs and services, including orientation, housing, career and professional development, counseling, health, wellness, student organizations, student advocacy, community engagement, disability resources, international student engagement, student media, student unions/centers, trio programs, family resources, and fitness.

4.C.4  The UOIA and UOEEE follow strict protocols for the collection, analysis, and reporting of university retention, persistence, and completion data. These units use consistent data definitions, and items on the ASU Persistence Survey were carefully worded and pilot-tested prior to implementation. Appropriate analytical procedures are strictly followed, and quality control mechanisms are implemented to ensure that calculations and reports are accurate. Data are analyzed for the aggregate as well as for meaningful subgroups. Following are examples of institutional dashboards: One-Year Retention Rate Trends - Metropolitan Campuses; One-Year Retention Rates by College - Metropolitan Campuses; Graduation Rate Trends - Metropolitan Campuses; Six-Year Graduation Rates by College - Metropolitan Campuses. Results are shared with the university community, and administrators use data to drive planning and decision making.