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Boise State Earns National Recognition for Success with Retention, Graduation Rates

By: Sherry Squires   Published 2:18 pm / August 24, 2017

Boise State University is one of five universities in the nation being recognized for innovative efforts to help students stay in college and complete their degrees.

As part of its ongoing efforts to increase degree completion, the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities (APLU) announced Boise State University, Colorado State University, the University of Hawaii at Manoa, the University of Texas at Austin, and Western Michigan University as finalists for its 2017 Project Degree Completion Award. The annual prize works to identify, recognize and reward institutions that employ innovative approaches to improve retention and degree completion.

“This past year has been really another one of excitement and accomplishment at Boise State,” President Bob Kustra noted in his State of the University address on Aug. 16. “Our first-year retention rate is now up to somewhere between 78 percent and 80 percent, depending on how you count. And it’s amazing when you stop and think, that was 60 percent a few years ago, and that’s a lot of hard work by faculty, by staff, advisors – there’s so much that goes into that – the leadership of the provost’s office. It’s amazing to see that number increase as it has.”

Boise State created a Freshman Success Task Force in 2004 to improve retention and degree completion. The task force’s 2005 recommendations led to overhaul of the core mathematics curricula, redesign of remedial English and placement exams for English composition courses, and the creation of a Learning Assistant Program to support students in targeted courses, as well as a variety of other initiatives. By 2015, these campus efforts helped increase overall retention by 15 percentage points, with increases of 21 percentage points for underrepresented students and 13 percentage points for Pell-eligible students. Over the same period, the university-wide graduation rate increased by 10 percentage points.

“Speaking for faculty and staff from across the university who have worked diligently on many fronts to improve student success at Boise State University, we are delighted with this recognition from the APLU,” said Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs Martin Schimpf.

The award is part of Project Degree Completion — a joint initiative that APLU and the American Association of State Colleges and Universities developed in which nearly 500 public colleges and universities have pledged to collectively award 3.8 million more degrees by 2025.

“Completing a college education is more crucial than ever before,” said APLU President Peter McPherson. “The United States needs to vastly increase the number of college graduate workers to retain its position as the world’s leading economy. As institutions whose mission is to advance the public good, public universities have the responsibility to educate more graduates with the leadership, critical thinking, and technical skills that will enable them to make vital contributions to the country. This year’s Project Degree Completion Award finalists have achieved exceptional progress in student retention and graduation. We’re delighted to recognize their accomplishments and promulgate the reforms that led to that progress.”

A panel of seven judges selected the finalists for the APLU award. The overall award winner will be announced and all finalists will be recognized at the APLU annual meeting Nov. 12-14 in Washington, D.C.