December 17, 2014
At a time when Texas Tech University's enrollment is growing at a record-breaking pace, the university's retention rates also are at historically high levels.
In the most recent retention report, 83.47 percent of fall 2013 incoming freshmen returned to Texas Tech in fall 2014. That marks the highest one-year retention rate for Texas Tech since 83.9 percent of fall 2004 incoming freshmen returned in fall 2005.
More encouraging, according to university officials, is that Texas Tech recently has implemented new retention efforts to ensure rates continue to improve.
“While we are extremely proud of our continued enrollment increase, we have also worked hard to make sure our growth doesn't compromise the academic success of our students,” said Texas Tech President M. Duane Nellis. “One way to achieve that goal is to increase our retention rates, and I applaud Provost Lawrence Schovanec, Senior Vice President Juan Muñoz, and the other members of our administration, faculty and staff who have helped make that happen.”
Schovanec said Texas Tech's retention increase reflects the excellent job by the University Advising department, as well as the different offices that provide student support during their transition to college. Some of these offices include Mentor Tech, Upward Bound, PEGASUS and the Military Veterans Program.
Two new retention tools that will help Texas Tech are the Provost Retention Task Force and the acquisition of Student Success Collaborative (SSC), a predictive software program provided by the Education Advisory Board.
“The reputation of our university and the value of a Texas Tech degree are enhanced by the success of students. Retention and graduation rates are important measures of that success,” Schovanec said. “The input of the Retention Task Force and the utilization of the Student Success Collaborative will complement the good work already being done at the departmental and college levels, not only improving student success metrics that affect the ranking of Texas Tech but also providing real individual benefit to our students.”
Schovanec created the task force, which includes approximately 30 administrators, faculty, staff and students. The task force is chaired by Muñoz, Texas Tech's senior vice president for Institutional Diversity, Equity and Community Engagement and vice provost for Undergraduate Education & Student Affairs.
Muñoz described the task force as innovative because it not only includes a representative from each college but also from different departments, such as financial aid and housing, that might play a role in improving retention.
“The taskforce has been charged with analyzing the policies, activities and decisions that are used throughout the institution so the university can determine the best practices to improve retention and academic success for our students,” Muñoz said. “Most importantly, we also want to look at assessment and accountability — how we measure retention. We want to recognize those people who are surpassing their goals and bring attention to those areas that are not as consistent.”
The addition of the Student Success Collaborative is expected to provide assistance for many members of the campus community, including students. Muñoz said the software has integrated Texas Tech's student information system with historical data to develop a comprehensive advising software.
“This software will provide specific longitudinal data and predictive analytics of what students must do to be successful at Texas Tech,” he said. “This software will not only allow us to advise students more effectively, but it will also help our students advise themselves.”
For example, a freshman looking at his or her degree plan will be able to view graduation rates based on how students fared after taking similar classes. The software also will allow students interested in changing majors to immediately determine how many more classes and semesters a change will add to their degree plan.
Muñoz said some schools that have used the software experienced a 1 to 2 percentage increase in retention in only a year. Texas Tech plans to implement the software by spring.
“Higher retention rates lead to higher graduation rates, which leads to more students capable of being gainfully employed and contributing members of the state and national economy,” Muñoz said. “No one celebrates dropping out of college, and retention is the first rung on the ladder toward graduation and long-term personal and professional success.”