Solutions for Higher Education engages in deeper reflection of critical issues in the world of colleges and universities.
In Episode 8, President Scott L Wyatt and Professor Steve Meredith discuss retention rates of students who have gone through Southern Utah University’s Jumpstart General Education Program.
In the last episode about the Jumpstart GE Program, Wyatt and Meredith were joined by professors who teach in Jumpstart and discussed how unique and exciting the program is for both students and faculty.
20 years ago, higher education looked vastly different than it does today. Universities and colleges care more now about connecting with students and making sure they finish their degrees. SUU has made an effort to distinguish itself based on completion, retention and graduation rates. Amongst all public regional universities in the eight Intermountain West states, Southern Utah University has the highest graduation rate. Universities don’t get high graduation rates unless they also have high retention rates, and retention can be increased by putting effort into connecting students with campus, which is why SUU has focused on clubs, advising and career counseling. Now, SUU is focusing its efforts on the teaching side of retention.
To recap from the last episode, Jumpstart is an integrative General Education experience with a blended, interdisciplinary model that gives students their entire GE curriculum during their freshman year.
In Fall 2017, SUU reached its highest retention rate of 71%, which is something administrators have been working to increase for years. Students who went through the Jumpstart GE Program, however, have a retention rate of more than 90% consistently across the last three years.
“What’s fun about this is that perhaps the best retention program that our university has ever undergone is based on teaching,” said Wyatt. “I don’t want to minimize all of the great retention work done in Student Affairs, because that is critical, but our needle has been pushed the furthest through teaching.”
Higher education in America often undercuts the freshman teaching experience, but SUU has invested its very best faculty members into a dynamic and integrated General Education experience and the results speak for themselves.
“If we think about the role of General Education, its to foster a lifelong interest and love of learning in a topic,” said Meredith. “That might be one of the single highest things a university can aspire to, is to invest in people and their love of learning beyond the university.”
Students are responding well to SUU’s Jumpstart GE Program and they’re coming back for more.
Listen to Episode 8 here: https://www.suu.edu/presidentspodcast/