A record 90.4 percent of UCF students who began classes in 2017 returned to the university this fall, reaching one of the state’s thresholds needed for achieving the status as a preeminent research university.
The state Board of Governors’ metrics require at least a score of 90 percent to count toward the calculations when determining the preeminence standing. The rate was based on students who entered UCF in the summer or fall of 2017.
The university’s retention rate was 89.6 percent last year, which encouraged Maribeth Ehasz, vice president of Student Development and Enrollment Services, and her team to implement Operation 90%, an initiative to push for that goal.
“This is something that has been a priority for us a long, long time,” Ehasz says. “A year ago we got close. We learned from that how important it is to keep an eye on students through the entire registration cycle.”
“This is something that has been a priority for us a long, long time.” — Maribeth Ehasz, vice president of Student Development and Enrollment Services
As a result, SDES along with its college partners reached out this year to students who hadn’t re-registered to come back to classes. The SDES staff tried to help solve any personal, financial or academic problems the students may have been experiencing, and even the college deans called students to encourage their return and to offer assistance.
“There was a continuous effort to work with the first-year students and a specific high-intensive initiative between May and September to ensure that all students who could, were registered,” Ehasz says.
The latest national retention data available, which is two years old, shows an average of 81.9 percent retention for public research universities, says Paige Borden, associate vice president of UCF’s Institutional Knowledge Management. Using those numbers, UCF’s performance was 48th in the nation. But calculating with the current 90.4 percent score would boost the university to 40th, she says.
“Together, we will build on this effort to champion more student success.” — UCF Provost Elizabeth A. Dooley
The increased retention of first-year-in-college students also should help boost UCF’s future graduation rates, Borden says. The new retention rate is 3.5 percentage points higher than the rate achieved by the 2012 entry class. That 2012 class also just set a six-year graduation rate for UCF with 72.6 percent, strong enough for a Top 50 achievement nationally.
“Reaching this key [retention] milestone underscores UCF’s strong commitment to student success and our dedication to become a leading preeminent university for the 21st century,” says Elizabeth A. Dooley, UCF’s provost and vice president for Academic Affairs. “Thanks to our faculty, staff, advisors, coaches and academic leaders for their sustained hard work that made this achievement possible. Together, we will build on this effort to champion more student success.”