While the University of Minnesota continues to make progress toward its retention and four-year graduation goals, the College of Education and Human Development struggles to keep up with other freshman-admitting colleges.
The University hit its first-year retention goal for 2010-11, with just over 90 percent of freshmen returning to the University the following year.
The four-year graduation rate also increased by about four percentage points since 2010 to 54 percent — still short of the University’s goal of 60 percent of students graduating within four years by 2011. In 2004-05, that number was about 33 percent.
Vice Provost and Dean of Undergraduate Education Robert McMaster presented the annual retention and graduation rate report to the Board of Regents on Thursday. He said the University has tried to increase retention and improve graduation rates by implementing first-year programming like Welcome Week and the Access to Success program.
McMaster said the University has also reviewed curriculum to ensure students don’t have “excessive degree requirements” that might inhibit them from graduating in four years.
While the Carlson School of Management outshone other freshman-admitting colleges with almost 75 percent of its 2007 freshman class graduating in four years, CEHD lagged behind all others by a wide margin.
The average percentage of all students graduating in four years was 54 percent in 2011. But only 35 percent of CEHD’s class that entered in 2007 graduated in four years.
But CEHD did see a “significant increase” in four-year graduation rates from 2010 to 2011, said Emily Goff, coordinator of undergraduate programs in CEHD. There was a 12 percentage point increase from 23 percent of students graduating in four years in 2010.
All colleges, except the Carlson School, have seen major increases in four-year graduation rates since 2005, when an average of 35 percent of students graduated in four years from those colleges. In that same year, only 10 percent of CEHD students graduated in the recommended time period.
CEHD fell behind all other colleges because many students came under its umbrella when the General College closed, Goff said.
In 2007, there was a one-year general studies program — an “anomaly” — that was a bridge for students who faced traditional barriers to four-year graduation. Goff said these students didn’t receive the student support CEHD began in 2008 so their graduation rates were lower.
She said CEHD still admits the most students with assorted ACT scores, ethnicities and even hometowns.
“We admit the most diverse class of freshman on every possible facet,” Goff said.
Compared to the group of students who entered the University in 2006, the four-year graduation rate has increased for students of color, but there is still a wide achievement gap.
Just over 58 percent of white students who started in 2007 graduated within four years, while 31.3 percent of African-American and 23.4 percent of American Indian students did. Overall, that’s a 20 percentage point gap between white students and students of color.
“We know that should be zero, and that’s our goal: to make that zero,” McMaster told the Board of Regents.
In 2008, CEHD began a first-year program that featured experiences like a common freshman course and learning communities. Coupled with the Welcome Week program, which Goff said was a “significant intervention,” the college anticipates another leap in four-year graduation rates when the class of 2012 graduates in the spring.
“We’re really going to be starting the clock next year,” she said.
All seven freshman-admitting colleges have four-year graduation rate goals of 60 percent, except the College of Science and Engineering at 55 percent and the Carlson School at 70 percent.
McMaster said these rates were differential based on the nature of the curriculum. For example, he said, mechanical engineering students are pushed to complete a semester at an engineering firm.
The colleges of Biological Sciences, Design, Liberal Arts and Food, Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences all met or were within about six percentage points of meeting their 60 percent goals.
The Carlson School has maintained a four-year graduation rate above 70 percent for the past few years.
Its academic advising model has been the key to that success, said Mary Kosir, assistant dean of undergraduate education in the Carlson School.
She said students are required to meet with advisers in both semesters of their freshmen year before they can register for classes. This helps them to develop a relationship with their adviser and ensures “nobody slips through the cracks.”
For the first time this fall, the Carlson School also surveyed the students who entered in fall 2007 and didn’t graduate in four years. Kosir said they wanted to get a better read on the hurdles students were facing.
Results showed many students who did not graduate within four years made “intentional” decisions to not do so, like seeking a dual degree or studying abroad for an extra semester, she said.