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June 30, 2010
Northwest is among 15 public universities across the nation recognized in a major new report from the nonprofit Southern Regional Education Board for outperforming similar institutions in helping students stay on track and graduate.
The SREB report, released this spring, profiles four-year public colleges and universities with successful approaches in boosting student success and graduation rates. The report, "Promoting a Culture of Student Success: How Colleges and Universities Are Improving Degree Completion," identifies institutions that outperform similar colleges and universities by having relatively high graduation rates based on criteria developed by SREB.
"These institutions are helping many students complete college degrees who otherwise often do not graduate," said Cheryl Blanco, SREB vice president who co-wrote and researched the report. "The strategies they're using can be adopted by other colleges and universities, and will guide state policy decisions to improve degree completion across the nation."
The report recognizes Northwest for its "intense focus on student satisfaction and graduation" through programs such as the Talent Development Center (TDC), First-Year Experience, SOAR and "an army of student peer mentors."
"The recognition by the Southern Regional Education Board is gratifying, because this external review confirms what our students have been telling us in NSSE (National Survey of Student Engagement) data for years: That Northwest's faculty interact with students more often and more meaningfully than faculty at other similar institutions," Northwest Provost Dr. Doug Dunham said. "Additionally, students recognize both faculty and staff for providing a supportive campus environment that helps them achieve their goals. It is when students engage and take advantage of the 'attentive leadership' of all faculty and staff that their experience is enhanced and the likelihood of success increases."
The TDC is an umbrella program that includes tutoring, Supplemental Instruction, the Student Athlete Success Program, and peer mentoring for the Enhanced Freshman Seminar Program. The TDC, which aids more than 3,000 students a year, helps struggling and successful students improve study skills, critical thinking, collaboration and time management.
"The Talent Development Center focuses on adding value to all students' Northwest experiences through a peer collaboration model, rather than utilizing a remediation model that focuses on student 'deficits,'" said Dr. Leslie Galbreath, Northwest's director of academic and library services, who oversees the TDC. "Tutors, Supplemental Instruction leaders and mentors engage peers through dialogue centered on further developing good learning and self-management skills in the context of a specific course or program."
Galbreath added, "Understanding that these skills are transferable is an important part of the conversation. TDC staff also make frequent student referrals to other Northwest programs and services. Understanding the learner in the context of his or her environment is key."
The Northwest campus, the report notes, "is a reflection of the 'Culture of Quality.' It sparkles, even though most facilities are decades old."
Said Dunham, "This does not happen by accident. These values are embedded in the culture at Northwest. We recognize the importance of continuously reviewing and improving what we do not for our own benefit, but for the benefit of our students."
Despite rising college enrollment, improvement in students' timely completion of bachelor's degrees in the United States has stalled, according to the report. Fewer than one-third of degree-seeking, full-time freshmen in public four-year institutions graduate in four years. Most students who enter college as first-time, full-time freshmen take at least six years to earn a bachelor's degree - and only 55 percent graduate in that time span. Research shows students from disadvantaged economic backgrounds or with low SAT/ACT scores are less likely to complete bachelor's degrees than their classmates.
The institutions profiled in the SREB report are helping more students complete degrees while providing a quality education. The institutions profiled often serve a comparatively high percentage of students from low-income families and students with average-or-below scores on standardized achievement tests. Yet their six-year graduation rates are near the national average for all students.
The study team used The Education Trust's College Results Online database to select colleges and universities that met these criteria in 2006: a six-year graduation rate of at least 45 percent, a median SAT score no higher than 1050 (ACT average of about 25), a proportion of students receiving Pell Grants of at least 25 percent, and Carnegie Classification as a public baccalaureate or master's institution.
Northwest was the only Missouri university profiled in the report. The other 14 institutions profiled were California State University, Long Beach; California State University, Stanislaus; Western Illinois University; Murray State University; Western Kentucky University; Delta State University; Wayne State College; Montclair State University; Queens College, The City University of New York; The College of Staten Island, The City University of New York; Elizabeth City State University; North Carolina Central University; Clarion University of Pennsylvania; and Sam Houston State University.