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Project Title:Sophomores and Second-Year Students: A Strategy for Retention, Persistence, and GraduationInstitution Name:University of Central Florida (UCF) Innovation Category:Retention/Completion Project Director:Robert Snow, DirectorContact Information:(407) 823-3375, rsnow@mail.ucf.edu Website:http://www.sophomore.sdes.ucf.edu/
Project Description:The Sophomore and Second Year Center (SSYC) office was created at UCF in response to the statewide goal to provide access to and production of bachelor’s degrees.  To accomplish this, universities could respond through direct services or tracking, including outreach programming, academic tracking, and advising. At UCF, programs and services were developed to target specific at-risk populations in an effort to enhance access, retention, and production of degrees. The populations identified were undeclared second-year freshmen, students changing their majors, undeclared sophomores, and accelerated first-time-in-college (FTIC) students (45+ credits earned).
Objectives:

The goals and outcomes for this sophomore and second year program are: 

  • increase sophomore student retention during first year of implementation by 1-2%
  • improve five-year retention rate of sophomores and sophomore participation in programs and services by 3-5%
  • increase bachelor’s degrees awarded to 467 degrees awarded for each of the five cohort years 2011-2015
  • increase student engagement with faculty members by introducing sophomores to undergraduate research opportunities and faculty connections

Each goal and outcome was measured via unit institutional effectiveness and annual assessment plans. The department produced monthly, end-of-semester, and annual reports.

Outcomes:

Year one (Fall 2006 to Summer 2008) outcomes:

  • a 6.1% increased retention rate of undeclared sophomore students
  • student engagement with faculty members reached 1,258 student contacts via 54 outreach programs
  • between Fall 2006 and Summer 2008, undeclared students (45+ credits earned) totaled 786, and 78% (613) retention rate and declared a major
  • development of Sophomore Task Force, Alumni Mentoring Knight Program, Sophomore Advising Day

 Year two (Fall 2008 to Summer 2009) outcomes:

  • undeclared sophomore student retention for one year was 83.3%
  • advised 4,554 of 5,084 (89.6%) students changing their major (internal transfers), and 243 of 270 (86.7%) of undeclared second year freshmen
  • undeclared student (45+ credits earned) retention rate of 78% 
Challenges/Problems Encountered:Challenges related to establishing the center included creating buy-in from university partners, marketing efforts to students, clear definitions of populations that the center would serve, and development of programming and student attendance.  In addition, the unit experienced an increased need for academic advisors due to the growing population of first-time-in-college (FTIC) students with 45 or more credits earned, students who change their major (internal transfers), and accelerated FTIC’s.
Evaluation Approach:The evaluation of this program consists of a series of impact reports and the unit’s annual institutional effectiveness plan. The impact reports were used in determining progress towards goals and outcomes outlined for this program. Within the report, the unit director captured the number of contacts over the first three years of implementation. Beginning in 2008-09, the unit developed their first institutional effectiveness plan to assess the programs and services of the unit.
Potential for Replication:The population of sophomores is considered an at-risk group, but segments of that population (i.e. undeclared, STEM majors, etc.) may vary in terms of risk depending on current programs and services of that institution. Some adjustments that are recommended for consideration are the institutional culture and structure of services that support student retention, persistence, and graduation. In some instances, the approach to support sophomores can be enhanced further through residence halls living learning communities’ initiatives. 
CEO-to-CEO Contact:John C. Hitt , President(407) 823-1823
jhitt@mail.ucf.edu
Date Published: Saturday, April 30, 2011