- The University of Rhode Island is experiencing a noteworthy boost in student outcomes, with more than 52 percent of its undergraduates earning a degree in four years and an 85% percent first-year student retention rate. What makes the achievements unusual, according to Inside Higher Ed: The university had its $26 million budget slashed by more than 30% as a result of the national recession, and its still smaller a decade later.
- URI leaders said that the budget cuts forced the institution to focus on degree completion, investing in predictive analytics and degree mapping technology, student advising and revitalizing its general education offerings. Officials also placed emphasis on students taking advantage of summer and winter course offerings.
- About 68% of first-time students now accumulate 60 or more credits by the conclusion of their sophomore year, a rate that some experts say helps the URI save money on instruction and support services.
Georgia State University also has successfully improved student success by using predictive analytics. The institution updates grades and records every night, and reviews hundreds of risk factors for each of the 50,000 students on a continuous basis. The efforts have paid off for the Atlanta campus whose student body is 60 percent low income and 60 percent minority and whose learners are predominantly first-generation college students.
While some institutions are successfully boosting outcomes for all types of students, the blueprint for reducing costs while improving success is one that many public institutions will look to emulate, but may find difficulty in copying. For institutions in the south, where poverty and divestment in K-12 education ravage prospects for college readiness, investing in degree completion is not guaranteed to yield a strong outcome.
Campuses also have to consider other operational outcomes when electing to invest in student outcomes in the face of budget cuts. Faculty resources and adjunct positions are a big part of student success, and if they are casualties of appropriation reductions, losses in student engagement and completion are sure to follow.