WKU looks to improve retention

Brittany Eldridge

WKU faculty are constantly striving to keep first-year students on the Hill for the long term.

The freshman-to-sophomore retention rate for WKU was about 72 percent in the fall of 2013, up from 71 percent in the  fall of 2012, according to WKU Factbooks.

Gordon Emslie, provost and vice president for Academic Affairs, said part of retention is the class experience that students have.  

“Retention is one class at a time,” Emslie said. “If students are enjoying what they’re doing, they will stay.”  

Emslie said if students continue to have positive experiences with instructors and other students, then they are more likely to continue with their education. 

“Two or three years ago we chose to deliberately diversify the courses that students would take,” Emslie said. 

Emslie said in the past, students with developmental needs were given nothing but developmental courses for their first semester.

WKU defines students with low ACT or SAT section scores as those with developmental needs.

Emslie said this wasn’t a good idea because it didn’t get those students involved with other students, so WKU stopped that practice. 

Beginning in the fall of 2011, developmental students at WKU now have a mixture of both developmental courses and regular credit courses that allow them to interact with other students.

“That was done largely to improve student success and retention,” Emslie said. 

Brian Meredith, chief enrollment and graduation officer, said that WKU is trying to make sure that students are connected to the academic piece of the campus, as well as the social life of the campus. 

Meredith said WKU is trying to engage students through the work of the Retention Task Force. The task force works with WKU’s colleges and deans to make sure students are connected through regular mandatory academic advising, in which students are seeing an advisor at least one time per semester.  

“We are trying to continue to build that infrastructure and support for the students,” he said.