|For Immediate Release: Tuesday, December 9, 2003
Retaining Students Priority for Public University System
MADISON - First-year experience programs, such as freshman seminars and learning communities, are among the ways South Dakota's public university system can do more to keep students in college, a new report says.
A system retention task force appointed by the South Dakota Board of Regents delivered its report this week, and says greater involvement by faculty in so-called "first-year experiences" could make the difference for a student struggling in college.
"These recommendations are very valuable, especially the suggestion that campuses share their successful programs across institutional lines, so that all our universities benefit from retention strategies that work," said Robert T. Tad Perry, the regents' executive director.
The report noted that all six South Dakota public universities have developed freshman seminars, but they could be even more successful. "Involve faculty members to a greater extent and make these seminars more content oriented," the task force suggested. "Provide academic credit for these seminars. Link freshman seminars thematically to one or more academic courses."
The task force also suggested South Dakota could benefit from: " More learning communities on campus focused on students' majors or career areas. In a basic learning community, two or more courses are block scheduled so that students take the courses together. In other scenarios, students attend large lecture classes together, but meet in small groups for regular discussion. " Special programs to meet the needs of underrepresented student populations, such as Native Americans, as well as students with disabilities; " Securing external grant funds to enhance existing student retention efforts; and " Monitoring student retention over time and using the data to improve programs.
The report, produced by administrators, faculty, and student affairs specialists representing the universities, said South Dakota institutions have made great strides toward enhancing student retention on their campuses. According to the Consortium for Student Retention Data Exchange, retention rates for first-time, full-time freshmen in fall 2002 ranged from 51 percent at Black Hills State University to 76 percent at South Dakota State University and the University of South Dakota. Dakota State and Northern State universities had a 69 percent retention rate, while the rate at South Dakota School of Mines and Technology was 71 percent.
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