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Retention rates rise

BY KENDREW PANYANOUVONG | MARCH 11, 2015 5:00 AM

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First-year retention rates have increased at the University of Iowa, continuing the recent trend of students staying.

The state Board of Regents released the fall 2014 student retention and graduation report last week.
The report shows the UI’s 2013 incoming class retention rate was 86.1 percent, a slight, 0.3 percentage-point increase over the previous year.

While the increase for the year is minimal, first-year retention rates are climbing toward their high of 86.6 percent in 2009 after a dip to 85.6 in 2010.

“In terms of the factors that support student retention, an important factor is a campus that creates a sense of community from the first day the student sets foot on campus to the day he or she graduates,” said Lon Moeller, the UI dean of the University College.

In addition in trying to create a sense of community for students, officials said the university offers many resources throughout campus to help assist students’ transition to college.

Resources provided include the Dean of Students Office, which strives to help students with emotional stress, and the writing center located in the English-Philosophy Building.

Andrew Beckett, the assistant dean of University College, said he wants to see students utilize the numerous resources offered at the university.

The school offers assistance for students who struggle financially through the Student Financial Aid Office as well as supplemental tutoring and instruction through TUTOR Iowa, for those in difficult courses such as chemistry and mathematics.

“Students need to figure out that we have these resources on campus early. We want students to be aware of them,” he said. “Thirteen percent of our students who leave are for academic reasons; the other half could be because financial reasons, or it wasn’t a good fit, personal reasons, and homesickness — which are big problems for most of our students.”

The university plans on adding more first-year seminars for freshmen, which are more intimate classroom settings.

Iowa State University’s entering 2013 class retention rate was at 86.4 percent, and the University of Northern Iowa’s was at 84.7 percent.

The UI also has programs aiming to help the transition process between high school and college, such as a student organization fair held every fall and a three-day academic “immersion” event before the start of the semester, Beckett said.

He said that with different factors that go into retention rates, officials implement intervention strategies to continue the steady growth in the UI’s rates.

Mirra Anson, the University College director of retention and early intervention, said officials try to conduct research and study on sub-populations of students who may have lower retention rates than the average.

She said sub-populations could include minorities, students eligible federal aid, and first-generation college students.

Student-retention efforts are tracked by using MAP-Works, a required survey for every student enrolled at the UI.

MAP-Works indicates students’ areas of strength and improvement, and students are reached by UI faculty to help assist in their academic needs through the survey.

Office of Retention officials will target certain student demographics that do not meet the average retention rate in upcoming years.

“We at the University of Iowa have really good retention and graduation rates, as well as our peer institutions,” Anson said. “Iowa does a great job in regard … we are always continuously working with our retention rates. We want students to have an easy transitional experience.”


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