Eastern Michigan University logo

Provost's Update

Sept. 2014

Retention and graduation plan will help students finish strong, earn degree

GraduatesEastern Michigan University, under the leadership of the Office of the Provost, has developed a comprehensive plan designed to enhance its student retention and graduation rates. The plan was completed after campus discussions and faculty input over the course of the last academic year.

The Degree Completion & Retention Plan focuses on the university's core responsibilities, says Rhonda Longworth, associate provost and associate vice president for Academic Programming and Support Services.

"Eastern is very committed to improving its retention and graduation rates—that's been at the forefront of our academic conversations for some time," Longworth says. "We're building upon past campus efforts by reviewing the work of committees, such as the retention and student success councils, and leveraging their ideas to create a coordinated and comprehensive plan."

Eastern's six-year graduation rate is between 38 and 40 percent, depending on the year.

"While we're not satisfied with our graduation rates, they also don't speak fully to our successes and strengths as a university," she says. "We can do better and won't shy away from that responsibility."

To initiate campus wide discussion, students, faculty, and staff reviewed initial draft proposals via focus groups and online surveys. Based on their feedback and faculty input, the proposals were updated and combined in a master draft that was finalized into a plan that focuses on five areas of practice, process and policy. These areas have been shown to have great impact on degree completion and retention by both scholarly and practitioner research. In addition the plan features special initiatives aimed at two demographic segments of our student population, men of color, and single parents. Research has shown that targeted programmatic efforts addressing the unique circumstances/attributes of the two segments can realize extraordinary results, and many on EMU's campus have already and continue to champion these two populations.

"Student Preparedness moves beyond the traditional markers that predict student success," Longworth says. "We want to help high school students make the transition to college so we can create potentially successful freshmen classes. Enrollment Policies address the critical role policies play in how students progress toward obtaining their degree. Financial Aid Policies and Incentives ensure that we're helping students remain eligible for available financial aid programs and structuring aid to support completion. Advising and Student Support involves making advising staff and resources available to students whenever and wherever they need them. Curriculum Structure and Delivery focuses on the availability and delivery of specific courses students need to sustain progress toward their degree."

"We are optimistic that this process will yield results for our students and provide an opportunity for EMU to be recognized as a thought-leader in the two special initiative areas," continued Longworth.

After the university approves and implements the plan, it will undergo annual discussions with Faculty Senate, Student Government, and other campus groups, Longworth says.

"We'll try as many strategies as possible to improve our graduation and retention rates," she says. "Eastern is committed to doing all we can to help students earn their degrees and have successful and rewarding lives after graduation."

Visit the Degree Completion & Retention Plan web page to access the plan description, draft proposals, feedback summaries and additional resources.