Dec. 7, 2012
Dear Colleagues and Friends,
As we near the end of the autumn semester, I'd like to take a few minutes to share exceptional news about student success here at UM. "Partnering for Student Success" is the first key issue in our Strategic Plan. We want to increase the likelihood that our baccalaureate students will graduate within four years with a degree that prepares them for today's world.
Our efforts are working thanks in large part to the Office of Student Success, led by Assistant Vice President Sharon O'Hare. UM's freshman-to-sophomore retention rate has reached 76 percent, the highest in the Montana University System. When we account for students who transfer to another institution in the state to pursue a program elsewhere – engineering, for example – the retention rate goes up to 78 percent.
We've also seen positive trends in our entering freshman class. For several years, we've told high school students about the importance of taking classes that get them ready for college. Now, I'm proud to tell you we've seen dramatic results. This fall, 52 percent of our incoming class had a college-prep curriculum in high school. That's up from 44 percent just the year before.
This means fewer students need developmental work when they arrive at UM. This year, 84 percent of our incoming freshmen were ready for college-level math, and 92 percent were ready for college-level English.
Student success isn't just about percentages, it's about the students themselves – people such as Erin Helmholz. She arrived at UM with 24 credits of advanced placement and dual-credit work from high school and was determined to major in theater. After two semesters, she decided to explore other options and settled on majoring in communication studies with a minor in theater. She's eligible to graduate this May, with honors, after just three years at UM.
Our work to improve student success will be given a further boost by creating a Learning Commons in the Mansfield Library. We are fundraising so we can renovate the ground floor to create a space that's rich in the technology students now expect, with flexible study areas for individuals and for small groups. The Learning Commons also will house the Math Learning Center and the Writing Center.
Higher education never has been more important to our society and to individual citizens. At a time when you've heard about UM's fall enrollment numbers and budgets, let's also remember the successes. Our students are better prepared than ever to succeed when they come to UM. And that's reason to celebrate!
Royce C. Engstrom