Nurturing student success is the No. 1 imperative in Central Michigan University's 2017-2022 Advancing Excellence strategic plan. A new team is dedicated to doing just that.
The 17 members of CMU's College Completion and Student Success standing committee will focus on improving students' four-year graduation rates, along with other areas of student life on and off campus. Efforts begin with the fall 2018 freshman class. The committee will submit recommendations and an implementation plan in this academic year.
"We exist for our students. Their success is our success," said Evan Montague, director of the Office of Student Success and co-chair of the CCSS committee.
Addressing a national trend
CMU's strategic plan outlines six key student success goals, such as increasing student retention rates and helping more students graduate in four years. At CMU, the first-to-second-year retention rate for undergraduate students at is at 77 percent, and the four-year graduation rate for first-time-in-any-college students is 27 percent.
Nationally, retention rates from first-to-second-year are around 60 percent, as reported by the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center. In addition, the majority of students enrolling in four-year degree programs do not finish their degree on time.
According to data from studies completed by Complete College America and the National Governors Association, only about a third of students graduate within four years. Universities nationwide are addressing these issues.
The committee will look for opportunities to improve CMU's metrics compared with national averages. Montague said failing to complete a degree on time is more expensive for students and can be a setback to their future careers.
The committee will look at how best to treat every student individually. Recommendations may include fostering a sense of belonging, taking advantage of cocurricular activities and engaging in professional development.
Students transferring to CMU from another college and students coming to CMU from other countries will have very different needs from traditional freshmen, he said.
"Student success isn't something that can be addressed in a short window of time. It is an ongoing process of assessment, tweaking and revising. We're taking a continuous improvement approach," Montague said.
"We want to reinforce the things that are already working and look for ways we can change things that aren't."
Collaboration is key
"Students see us as One CMU, so we need to be working in concert to ensure their success," Montague said.
The committee includes representation from many areas around the university, including faculty and administrative staff. The list of committee members is available on the CCSS website.
Montague said every person on campus plays a role in a student's college experience, and he hopes all employees will feel comfortable making suggestions and recommendations to the committee.
"All new employee orientations include a discussion on how every person can make a difference to a student. Simply asking a student how his or her day is going or inquiring about a class project can help them feel supported," he said.