The First Year: A Cultural Shift Towards Improving Student Progress

Document Type


Publication Date

Spring 3-26-2016


Student attrition has been a primary focus among higher education institutions for nearly 50 years, yet overall retention and graduation rates continue to be of significant concern. Despite increased attention, ongoing struggles of colleges and universities to effectively address potential barriers to student progress are well-documented. Part of the challenge lies in garnering widespread organizational commitment that establishes student progress as an institutional priority. Along with leadership commitment, broad institutional involvement and adherence to a systematic approach to testing new, innovative solutions are necessary to better position the institution to make clear, evidence-based decisions that improve the student experience. The purpose of this manuscript is to detail one university’s cultural shift towards establishing a clear student progress strategy (with particular focus on the first year), and the methodological approach that laid the foundation for a multi-year study of initiatives that resulted in improved student satisfaction, performance, and retention.