State University of New York Student Success
Introduction and Background Information Time and perspective are important considerations when assessing student success in college. From the students’ perspective there are short-term objectives, such as learning new skills or facts that will assist them in understanding the world: There are mid-term objectives like earning a degree or getting into graduate school, and then there are long-term objectives which include living a life, as a community leader and productive citizen, that is rich in personal and professional opportunity. Colleges have a responsibility to provide a rich and nurturing academic, cultural and social environment that facilitates student success. The metrics associated with each of these perspectives and timelines are radically different, but they all play an important part in fostering student growth and delivering overall academic excellence. Terenzini 1 suggested that the question colleges should be asking is, “What aspects of students’ experience over which the institution has some control, tend to promote retention or attrition?” Each SUNY institution continuously examines this key question in order to develop, implement, and assess policies that will enhance campus life and improve retention. In a recent Chronicle of Higher Education article titled “How to Help Students Achieve”, George Kuh indicates that a key to students’ academic success is engagement. ”The time and energy they devote to their studies and other educationally purposeful activities, in and outside of the classroom, positively influence their grades and persistence,” says Kuh. Retention and Graduation Traditional measures of student success in higher education include retention rates, graduation rates, satisfaction surveys, engagement data, and transfer and job placement data. Both individual campuses and SUNY System Administration collect and analyze these sources of data and compare the results over time and among institutions. Research on persistence has been studied extensively and System Administration has developed and enacted multiple strategies to encourage and assist student retention to graduation. SUNY System Administration data include (by campus and sector): First-time, full-time student retention rates; New transfer student retention rates; First-time, full-time student graduation rates (Associate or Baccalaureate) Success rates of two-year college students after transfer (by initial institution); Full-time transfer student graduation rates (Baccalaureate); Successful educational outcomes which factor in a student transferring to another institution in addition to graduating.
Terenzini, P. (1982). Designing attrition studies. New Directions for Institutional Research (pp. 55-71). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
System Administration also has the capability of developing the above reports for student cohorts based on factors such as gender, race/ethnicity and academic program to assist campuses in assessing results from specific strategies implemented to increase retention to graduation, for example. In a national comparison to other public institutions, SUNY institutions exceed in retaining students across all sectors.
First-Year Retention Rates for First Time, Full-Time Students Enrolled in SUNY
SUNY 2004 Cohort
(as of Fall 2005)
Research/Doctoral Masters/Comprehensive Baccalaureate All Four-Year Institutions Community Colleges
87.3% 78.5% 75.2% 82.4% 62.3%
79.6% 71.8% 64.7% 73.0% 57.3%
Source: SUNY data taken from Official Student Data Files, SUNY Office of Institutional Research and Analysis; National Benchmark data taken from the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) Enrollment Survey, Fall 2004.
Similarly, data indicate there are higher student graduation rates for SUNY state-operated institutions than at national four-year public institutions.
Four, Five- and Six-Year Graduation Rates For First-time, Full-time Baccalaureate Students Entering in Fall 1999, as of Fall 2005 For SUNY and National Four-Year Publics
Sector SUNY National FourYear Publics
Baccalaureate Graduation Rates Four-Year Five-Year Six-Year 42.0% 27.5% 57.0% 48.1% 59.9% 54.0%
As shown, SUNY's baccalaureate graduation rate of 59.9 percent exceeds the national six-year average (54 percent) by nearly six percent. When successful educational outcomes (all degrees, transfers and those still persisting toward a degree) are considered, more than 88.6 percent of SUNY baccalaureate students are successful. These findings account for the swirl, associated 2
with multi-institution matriculated students who transfer within SUNY four-year colleges and universities, but do not include students who leave SUNY institutions prior to graduation and migrate to private colleges or public colleges outside of New York State.
Community College Three-year Graduation Rates and Successful Educational Outcomes
% First-Time, Full-Time Students Graduating within Three Years (IPEDS GRS, Fall 2002 cohort as of 2005) % Successful Educational Outcomes in Three Years: Graduation Rate plus Transfer without Degree (IPEDS GRS, Fall 2002 cohort as of 2005) % Students Transferring to a Four-Year Institution (College Board 2003-2006)
SUNY Community Colleges
National Community College Average
Northeast Community College Average
As indicated above, SUNY’s community college graduation rates, successful educational outcomes (graduation rate plus transfer without a degree) and transfer rates, exceed the national community college average and the average for community colleges in the northeast U.S. Even though the findings for SUNY colleges and universities demonstrate a level of performance higher than the average scores for similar national institutions, each SUNY campus Memorandum of Understanding II (2005-2010) contains a commitment to continually improve student retention and graduation rates.. The commitments are supported by strategies specific to each institution and range from exploring and adopting best practices from aspirational peer institutions to implementing measures for improvement as determined by analysis of the Student Opinion Survey (SOS) or student engagement surveys, such as the National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE) Student Engagement While the above-mentioned measures are used to gauge academic engagement of students, research also indicates that, especially for residential students, social integration is imperative to ensure persistence. Student satisfaction and engagement at SUNY institutions have been measured over time and the results compiled by sector, include: The SUNY Student Opinion Survey, administered on a three-year cycle The Community College Survey of Student Engagement (CCSSE) and the National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE), administered selectively by campus in the past, to be part of the SUNY-wide Strengthened Campus-Based Assessment Initiative beginning in Spring 2008
Other surveys administered by some campuses include: The Foundations of Excellence in the First College Year Program--A national program designed to evaluate and improve student success in the first college year, and; American College Health Association’s student survey or the CORE survey--Both nationally-recognized longitudinal surveys on student behavior and perception related to alcohol and drug use, engagement and persistence. While national comparisons are not possible with the SUNY Student Opinion Survey, the last administration of the survey asked questions that made it possible to focus on the perceptions of specific groups of students (e.g., gender, race/ethnicity, class level, and native/transfer). In the near future, the CCSSE/NSSE survey will provide SUNY a rich information source for assessing student engagement in the academic environment. This information is available not only for SUNY colleges and universities but for national comparisons as well. SUNY campuses already have in place, as suggested by Kuh’s research, myriad activities and programs which foster engagement leading to students’ academic success. Best Practices for Student Success Employed by SUNY Campuses Teach students how to use college resources effectively. Orientation and advising: To introduce students to the college and provide familiarity with the campus facilities and programs. First-year seminars: Semester-long classes that encourage formation of study groups and provide information ranging from study skills to club activities. Supplemental instruction: Extended course instruction offered by peer tutors in high risk courses; provide course enrichment under faculty member supervision. Placement testing: To ensure students are in courses for which they are prepared. Intrusive advising: Which can involve contacting students who have not declared a major and those whose grades are low. Learning communities: Both residential and non-residential provide common ground in and out of the classroom and provide skills needed to succeed in college. Further develop networks and early-warning systems to support students when they need help. Academic advisors and student affairs professionals work together on campuses to develop early-warning and support systems for at-risk students. Assessment tools are also available to help gather useful information in the identification of high-risk students. (i.e. ACT Entering Student Questionnaire, Educational Benchmarking, MAP Works) Connect students in meaningful ways with some activity or positive role model. Many campuses have developed peer and professional mentoring systems to help atrisk students. Educational Opportunity Programs across the state include peer and alumni mentoring components, and many campus life and residential programs involve upper-class students in mentoring with entering freshman. 4
Along with the programs and initiatives individual campuses have in place to assist students in succeeding SUNY has developed system-wide initiatives to support student success including: The SUNY-CRI (Course Redesign Initiative) to assist faculty in the redesign of large enrollment courses to improve student learning and retention; The development of a system-wide degree-audit system that will allow students to follow and assess their progress toward graduation; Provision of educational outcomes data to two-year institutions for students who transfer into SUNY four-year institutions; Provision of data on successful educational outcomes for students who have transferred into four-year institutions; General education requirement, with courses transferable throughout the SUNY system, for all students graduating with a baccalaureate degree; Assessment of student learning outcomes imbedded in general education programs and program review for each academic major. Within five years Institutional Research will implement a new information system which will support studies of student engagement with the curriculum. The resulting information, in conjunction with the tools above, will provide SUNY a rich source of data concerning student success. Recommendations and Resources: Provide campuses with resources including staff and professional development opportunities to improve counseling and support systems in campus life and across the entire spectrum of the collegiate experience including support for addressing substance abuse issues. Continue support of Suny’s Institutional Research efforts to track student multiinstitutional attendance patterns and enhance the capabilities of the student data system including monitoring of part-time student attendance patterns and outcomes.