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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

UMass Boston Attempts to Raise Retention

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. The “Get on Track Stay on Track” program has been developed to halt the exodus of freshman and transfer students, as well as help students move more quickly toward graduation.

UMass Boston loses 20 to 25 percent of its first time, full-time freshman and transfer student population each fall. Only about 30 percent of the students who begin their college careers as traditional students here graduate from here. This does not compare favorably to other universities, even within the UMass system. The “Get on Track Stay on Track” program has been developed to halt the exodus of freshman and transfer students, as well as help students move more quickly toward graduation.

“We have started this campaign to say to students that they need to pay attention to credit accumulation. They need to decide when they enroll if they are trying to graduate in four or five or six years. It makes a difference in terms of affordability and schedule flexibility,” said Joan Becker, who is vice provost of Academic Support Services and Undergraduate Studies.

The program is the result of a collaborative effort between the Office of Student Advising, the Registrar’s Office, and the Dean’s Office. At the start of the university’s strategic planning, the Chancellor and the Provost formed a committee to find the causes of, and to develop solutions for, the problem of UMass Boston’s low retention rate.

In 2011-12, Becker was chair of the committee. “We took a close look at the freshman population,” she said. “What we found was that students who began their second year with least 24 credits and a 2.5 GPA were twice as likely to graduate within 4 to 6 years than students who came back with less that 24 credits and a GPA lower than 2.0.”

Inspired by this discovery, the committee began discussing ways to help students earn credits, particularly credits that would help them move toward graduation. To that effect the committee has asked the colleges to develop degree plans which outline exactly what classes a student should take, and when, in order to stay on track.

“It was important to us to give the incoming freshman some idea of what they need to do,” Becker said. “So we asked each of the colleges to develop a list of the classes they think a freshman should take in their first year. Of course once we had that information we had to make sure that we had enough of those classes available to accommodate the students.”

Another major part of the solution to the retention problem has been increased advising. The Advising Center successfully petitioned for additional funding, enabling them to hire more advisors and to reduce their case loads. The ratio is now 300 students per advisor, rather than 500 per advisor.

“We are hoping to add professional advising positions to the colleges as well, not to replace faculty advising but to augment it,” Becker added. “Professors have tight schedules that limit their ability to advise students. Adding professional advisors to the specific departments will better provide students with the help they need.”

Another issue believed to be a strong driver of the loss of freshmen is the lack of housing on campus. Of the students who leave UMass Boston, 49 percent go to a different university, and the majority of those to another four-year institution with housing. Many move on to other UMass campuses.

About the Contributor
Jacob Aguiar served as the following positions for The Mass media the following years: News Editor: 2011-2012; Fall 2012 Leisure Editor: 2010-2011