Middle Tennessee State University (MTSU), a public research university of 22,000 students, is located in Murfreesboro, southeast of Nashville and almost exactly in the geographic center of Tennessee. Its student body is 50% Pell Grant eligible, 50% first generation, and 40% minority. It has recently received wide recognition for improvements in the rates at which its students persist from one year to the next. The improvement has been gradual, steady, and impressive: In fall 2012, MTSU’s rate of year-to-year retention was 65.2%; by fall 2016, it had risen to 76.4%. This represents the highest level of retention in the modern history of the institution.
How has this transformation come about?
MTSU made a strong commitment to student success—and followed through on it with a set of concrete steps to transform the ways in which it helps students achieve success. A little more than four years ago, MTSU advised its students in a traditional way. Advisors held meetings with students to ensure that they carried out the basic business transactions necessary to register themselves for the following semester’s classes. At these meetings, advisors had scant information at hand on their students’ backgrounds and experiences and they faced large caseloads of students, all of whom needed to see them in a short period of time. As a result, advisor-advisee meetings typically did not include discussions about how the proposed classes did or did not align with the student’s recent academic effort, progress toward completing a degree or a major, or career plans.
The model is quite different today. MTSU, recipient of a 2015 grant for Integrated Planning and Advising for Student Success (iPASS), has been pressing forward in the pioneering use of data collection and sharing to maximize the potential of these advising relationships. In doing so, the institution has achieved significant increases in the rates at which students persist and, ultimately, complete degrees.…Read More