WKU takes new measures to boost retention

Natalie Hayden

When it comes to retention, WKU is implementing new procedures and revamping old ones.

The retention task force, created last fall, is focused on improving WKU’s retention rates. Currently, WKU retains 73.5 percent of students from freshman to sophomore year. The goal is 80 percent, said Brian Meredith, associate vice president of Enrollment Management.

In order to meet this goal, programs such as the Best Expectations Programs are in full swing. The BEP has been in place for a few years and requires at-risk students to participate in events that will improve their academic experience.

Some of the requirements of the BEP are monthly academic advising sessions, academic workshops and mandated study hours. There are 868 students enrolled in the BEP for the spring semester, said Kevin Thomas, director of the Academic Advising and Retention Center.

“These students have not done well,” Thomas said. “We know that by coming in and studying in the center, they can be successful with more support than what they’ve had in the past.”

Meredith said that one of the biggest academic difficulties students face is math. Starting last fall, students with developmental needs must take math their first semester and immediately take their first college-level course the next semester.

The other developmental classes students need may be spread out between semesters.

“When you put all in at one term, it can scare people off,” Meredith said.

While the task force knew some students were leaving because of academic reasons, the MAP-Works survey was created to learn other reasons students leave, said Sharon Hunter, coordinator of college readiness.

The survey was first administered last semester, with 3,528 students participating, Hunter said. It was emailed to first-time freshmen and transfer students, and asked about money, friendships and homesickness.

“We wanted to get our hands around information we couldn’t get by looking at your class schedule,” Hunter said. “We can look at what actually works and what doesn’t.”

Meredith said that these measures are a “wonderful example of WKU putting its money where its mouth is” in regards to retention.

“This institution has a culture here that is much like a private school,” he said. “It’s a very user-friendly campus, and we want to continue to create a culture to break down perceived barriers students have.”

Hunter agreed, saying that the university wants students to let someone know when they need help.

“We know the cost of a college education,” she said. “We want students to come in and for it to pay off.”