A leader in promoting student success

03-11-2016

Michigan State’s work to improve student outcomes earned a meaningful endorsement recently with new funding from three prominent foundations. Along with our 10 partner institutions in the University Innovation Alliance, we will share $3.85 million from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Ford Foundation, and USA Funds to continue work to graduate more students and reduce the achievement gap separating disadvantaged students from their peers.

I discussed our efforts in this regard earlier this month in my annual testimony to a combined hearing of the Michigan House and Senate appropriations higher education subcommittees. Stakeholders rightly want to know what we are doing to improve graduation rates, which not only speak to institutional effectiveness, but also have ramifications for student debt, career success, and other concerns.

Michigan State already records a six-year graduation rate of 79 percent, well above our predicted range given our student body composition. About a third of MSU undergraduates are first-generation college students and nearly a quarter are Pell Grant recipients. Now we’re seeing fresh progress reflected in student performance metrics. We reduced the freshman academic probation rate last fall to the lowest level in over a decade, 8.7 percent. That’s important because students on probation are little more than a third as likely as other students to graduate from MSU in six years.

Many of our efforts revolve around delivering support services within residential Neighborhoods on campus to better support students' academic performance, career preparation, and health. These will increasingly be informed by sophisticated data analysis, allowing us to deliver more targeted academic services to struggling students faster. We’ve found that students who use Neighborhood services have higher GPAs than those who don’t, and are more likely to persist to their second year and beyond.

We’re also part of the national conversation about the need for more science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) graduates through our participation in the Association of American Universities Undergraduate STEM Education Initiative.

I urge you to read this year’s testimony and explore the other links above to learn more about our many initiatives under way to promote student success. I also recommend this excellent television news report to get a sense of how we’re doing it. And here’s another look at how we stack up to other universities in promoting social mobility.

Michigan State’s very creation was a bold initiative to elevate the people and communities of Michigan, one that quickly became a model for what became the nation’s system of land-grant colleges. Our student success programs constitute an exciting set of initiatives that are delivering on their promise across the socioeconomic spectrum of the MSU student community.

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