College student retention rates have been a growing problem across the country, with only about 70 percent of students returning for their sophomore year, and an even lower percentage, 59 percent, of students that graduate in under six years.
Sophomore retention rates are crucial to higher education institutions for a number of reasons, including maintaining healthy graduation rates in order to attract new students, as well ensuring that they continue to receive federal funding. Universities invest resources in each student who is admitted, such as maintaining a high-quality faculty, providing cutting-edge spaces for students to learn in and making sure that students have all the resources they need to be successful in college.
Remaining at the same college for the entirety of their education benefits students as well as universities. Transferring costs, time and money make it more difficult for students to graduate on time, or at all due to inconsistencies with transfer credits.
At the University of Utah specifically, these numbers are slightly higher than the national average with 90 percent of students transitioning to their sophomore year, but only 65.4 percent who end up completing their education. To combat this, Dr. Amy Bergerson, the Associate Dean for Undergraduate Studies, has teamed up with members from Student Affairs, the Student Success Advocates and several faculty members to create the Sophomore Rise Initiative.
“After an exciting transition to college their first year, [sophomores] realize they still have a way to go to complete their degree,” Bergerson said. “Many second-year students are still figuring out what to major in, and some start to feel a little lost. New Milestone Academic Advising for Sophomores can help with this.”
Another one of Bergerson’s goals for returning sophomore students is to provide the support needed to make decisions about majors, what they’re going to accomplish while in college and what experiences they want to be part of.
The Sophomore Rise Initiative is designed to keep returning second-year students on a productive, focused track towards graduation. The program includes a number of resources and activities, including a Sophomore Appreciation Week and Sophomore Celebration Dinner that took place in mid-September, as well as a group of professors from every department on campus who serve as MUSE mentors, specifically to guide sophomore students for their upcoming years.
Another aspect of the Sophomore Rise Initiative is a collection of workshops designed to help students develop a sense of purpose, plans to finish their bachelor’s degrees, an understanding and appreciation of intercultural humility and critical thinking skills that they can apply to various forms of engagement. The course will be taught by LEAP faculty member, Nora Wood.
Bergerson also encourages undergraduate students to take advantage of all of the resources available to them on campus to help ensure they have a successful and worthwhile college experience.
“Being engaged in different ways makes college more fun and more meaningful, so students can be better prepared for the future while having the best experience possible right now,” she added. “We also know that involvement in these types of activities contributes to student retention, so there’s really no reason not to take advantage of them.”