Two Years into HLC Persistence and Completion Academy

In late 2013, WIU applied and was accepted to the Higher Learning Commission’s Persistence and Completion Academy. The Academy is a structured, mentored, four-year program aimed at evaluating and improving student persistence and completion. WIU has made significant progress.

Nearly two years ago WIU started the Persistence and Completion Academy with the overarching question “What are the patterns of retention rates, and what factors foster or inhibit student persistence?” Applying that question to the context of the WIU student experience, the team began to focus on three separate groups of students based on location and instructional modality: First-Time Freshmen Starting on the Macomb Campus, Undergraduate Students at the Quad Cities Campus, Off-Campus Undergraduate Students.

We have developed a communication structure to share information, data and analysis. We have also begun to build a data warehouse which, once completed and tested, will open the door to ongoing analysis of more than just persistence and completion trends. It will also allow for more just-in-time data needs to be met, more data driven decisions to be made and resources appropriately targeted.

To begin studying institutional retention and graduation rates, all three teams have independently focused on a set of indicators that were surprisingly similar to each other. The indicators we are now focusing on are the following:

  • Admissions type (freshmen, transfer, special admissions, dual enrollment)
  • Full time versus Part time
  • First semester GPA
  • Program/Major
  • Pell/MAP eligible and/or received (socioeconomic status)
  • Commitment scholarship received (tuition discounting for high need students)
  • Enrolled in English 100 or Math 099 (remedial courses)
  • Number of first semester DFWIUs (grade deficiencies)

Once the data warehouse is deployed, we will begin analyzing the information in both SPSS and WEKA, then using the university’s structures that are already in place, take our findings to the group most appropriate to affect change.