First-year student retention rates at Southern Utah University have increased a dramatic 15.6% over the past four years, according to new data released by the University. This year the University saw 74% of first-year, full time students return for a second year, a record high for the institution.
“This is a remarkable achievement and something we celebrate as a team at SUU,” said Southern Utah University President Scott L Wyatt. “We all share in the success – faculty, staff and especially our students.”
As colleges and universities across the U.S. struggle to keep first-year students enrolled and in the classroom, SUU has dedicated countless hours and resources to solving the retention puzzle.
“Increasing retention rates takes the work of the entire University community,” said Dr. Jared Tippets, vice president for student affairs at SUU. “Our student’s mission is to graduate and oftentimes they overcome difficult obstacles to achieve that goal. I’m proud of their increased persistence.”
Beginning in 2015, Dr. Tippets and his team began pinpointing the key connections required for students to be successful in school, specifically focused on first-year students returning. The team distilled their retention strategy into the ASCEND model: affordability, support, culture, engagement, nudged, and data. This strategy was used to rethink and restructure the orientation program, campus engagement, and academic advising.
Once first-year retention was solid, the team turned its attention to sophomore students to increase retention rates and enhance the second year experience. Through those efforts, SUU created the SOAR (success through opportunities, activities, and resources) program. The program focuses on nine core competencies: communication skills, teamwork/collaboration, leadership, creativity and problem solving, professional development, information technology, intercultural perspective, career management, and financial management. And relies heavily on completion ACES, mentors assigned to each student to help smooth the transition into their sophomore year.
Through both programs, SUU students receive many opportunities to grow and succeed not just as students, but as people. The university’s commitment to enhancing the undergraduate experience sets students on an upward trajectory, leading to personal growth, civic responsibility, and professional excellence.
President Scott L Wyatt President
A leader in higher education specializing in creating transformative learning experiences and achieving high-quality outcomes.
Jared Tippets Vice President for Student Affairs
Specializing in student retention, organizational changes, and administration in higher education