CONTACT: Patricia Moore Shaffer (757.271.6380; firstname.lastname@example.org)
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
VIRGINIA BEACH, VA, June 12, 2006 - The Educational Policy Institute (EPI) awarded the University of Connecticut (UConn) the 2006 Outstanding Retention Program Award at its annual RETENTION 2006 conference in Las Vegas, Nevada this past May. The award is presented annually to nominees who have exhibited excellence in the development and implementation of a program that increases the persistence of students at the postsecondary level. By honoring the excellent work being done at institutions today to create programs that use innovative means to help students realize their goals, EPI hopes to further its mission of creating opportunities for students of color, first generation, and other historically underrepresented students at the postsecondary level. UConn was selected as the 2006 recipient by a panel convened by EPI and based on a nomination process announced last January 2006.
UConn's retention effort began five years ago when they formed the Retention and Graduation Task Force to improve undergraduate retention and graduation rates. Since 1998, freshmen retention for all students rose from 86 percent to 92 percent. For students of color, the freshmen retention rate rose to 93 percent from 88 percent. Four- and six- year graduation rates improved from 43 percent and 54 percent to 69 percent and 72 percent, respectively.
The Task Force initiative achieved results using a 10-step process that focused on retention issues specific to their institution and subsequently developed unique strategies to address those concerns. During a breakout session at RETENTION 2006, Dolan Evanovich, the Vice Provost for Enrollment Management, discussed the details of the University of Connecticut's retention plan. "We found that we really needed to define the institution's mission and enroll students that had a profile compatible with the school's priorities. That, along with a strong evaluation component to help us identify areas in need of improvement and also to chart progress, provided the foundation for our work." Laying out the goals of the program, soliciting leadership buy-in, and ensuring that representatives from all sectors of institutional life are included in the development process are other key elements to a good retention program.
Additionally, Evanovich urged conference attendees to create and implement initiatives unique to their institutions. "Programs that work really well at one institution may not be as effective at another," warned Evanovich. Finally, he noted that ongoing feedback from stakeholders was an integral part of being able to determine program efficacy.
The award was presented by EPI President Dr. Watson Scott Swail to Mr. Evanovich, along with Mr. John Barry, Director of University Communications, and Dr. Gary Lewicki, Director of Research and Assessment. According to Swail, this year's recipient offers hope to others who wish to improve their service to students. "The University of Connecticut illustrated that it is possible to take a complex problem and create real strategies for institutional improvement. For them, as well as other successful institutions, it comes down to focusing institutional mission and practices on students and working from there. UConn is a deserving recipient of this award."
To nominate a program for the 2007 Outstanding Student Retention Program Award, visit www.studentretention.org to download the application. The application deadline for the 2007 award is February 15, 2007.
The Educational Policy Institute (EPI), a non-profit, non-partisan research organization, with offices in Virginia Beach (US), Toronto (CAN), and Melbourne (AUS), is dedicated to policy-based research on educational opportunity for all students. The mission of EPI is to expand educational opportunity for low-income and other historically underrepresented students through high-level research and analysis.
Studentretention.org is EPI's subsidiary devoted to the study and dissemination of best practices related to student success and excellence. EPI releases a bi-monthly publication, Student Success, focusing on best practices and institutional strategies. Sign up at www.studentretention.org or www.educationalpolicy.org for your free download.