Preparation of students related to retention rates

Travis Reed

Veteran University students might find it increasingly difficult to pull the wool over the eyes of incoming freshmen.
The percentage of freshmen meeting the University’s high school- preparatory standards has risen from 17 percent in 1985 to 89 percent this year. Because of this, University officials estimate the 1999 freshman class is the most academically prepared to ever enter the school.
For students to pass the University’s high school preparatory standards, they have to complete four years of English, three of math, three of science and a handful of other class requirements.
“When we set up the standards, we wanted to send a strong message to students that meeting these requirements will make you successful at the University,” said Wayne Sigler, director of University admissions. “We wanted to increase retention and graduation, not keep people out.”
The University has seen its freshman-to-sophomore retention rates rise for the fifth consecutive year to about 85 percent.
School officials attribute much of the retention increase to many factors, but the most prominent is high school preparatory standards.
“The atmosphere in class has been changed,” said Ron Matross, senior analyst with the Office of the Executive Vice President and Provost. “If students are better prepared, they will do better in class.”
Officials say that the added focus on educational background has allowed many students to skip preliminary courses in subjects such as math and second languages and move on to more involved course work.
“If students are already familiar with these subjects, it makes them better prepared to step into sequences,” said Craig Swan, vice provost.
The classes also might help students in subjects like political science and economics, which aren’t included in the required high-school curriculum.
“It’s a matter of the breadth of background that students bring to the University,” Swan continued. “Even if a student isn’t in a course that ties back directly to a preparatory requirement, they are more prepared for collegiate life in general.”
Exceptions to preparatory requirements can be made if missing classes aren’t deemed necessary for prospective students to be successful in their first semester of school.

Travis Reed covers transportation and the environment and can be reached at [email protected]