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Probation Area 4.C: Student Retention, Persistence, and Completion

For evidence related to Retention efforts, click here.

Task: As stated in the HLC action letter, Highlands must provide evidence that the institution has ameliorated the findings of non-compliance identified in this action that resulted in the imposition of Probation, Probation Area Core Component 4.C:

  1. formally approved 2015-19 plan for improving student retention, persistence and completion;
  2. integrated planning process and endorsement/approval by required governance groups and internal officials in development of the plan; and
  3. realistic and justified goals and objectives, robust evaluation and design, institutional coordination and oversight, adequate resource allocations, and progress in implementation;

The HLC provided more details in their action letter:

The University is out of compliance with Criterion Four, Core Component 4.C, “the institution demonstrates a commitment to educational improvement through ongoing attention to retention, persistence, and completion rates,” for the following reasons:

  • The University has not demonstrated an ongoing commitment to retention, persistence and completion as required by this Core Component because:
  • student retention, persistence and completion is another example of the institution’s past inaction and lack of attentiveness since the 2009 Comprehensive Team Report;
  • the University’s history of inattention in these areas is consistent with the
  • “starting-and-stopping” pattern evidenced for other Core Components;
  • after abandoning a previous Retention Plan and Retention Committee in 2008 with limited or no results, the University has recently reconstituted the Retention Committee and presented a new Draft Plan that had not been approved or implemented at the time of the team visit, and the University lacks any evidence that the plan will effectively demonstrate educational improvement; and
  • recent appointments of the new President (July 2015) and other administrative personnel have refocused attention to these concerns, but their efforts are recent and have not demonstrated specific improvement in student retention or completion;
  • Enrollment management/student recruitment, sufficiency of financial resources, and retention processes are recurrent issues of HLC review and monitoring, having been identified as a challenge in the 2000 Comprehensive Report, an area of focus in the 2004 Focused Evaluation, and an area of progress review in the 2009 Comprehensive Evaluation;
  • The University’s record demonstrates a lack of planning until recently, and a lack of coordinated institutional efforts and ongoing attentiveness to student retention, persistence, and completion since the 2009 Comprehensive Team Report; and
  • While the University in its August 2016 response explained its efforts to begin to address retention and completion, it is not clear from the evidence provided that there is support from the institution’s constituencies or funding to support these efforts, nor is there evidence as yet that these efforts will result in improvements in retention and completion.

Resolution: Highlands needs to accomplish four things to resolve Probation Area 4.C:

  1. Draft a retention, persistence, and completion plan (called the Retention Plan) that:
  2. Sets realistic and justifiable objectives.
  3. Designs a system of robust evaluation, institutional coordination, and oversight for student retention, persistence, and completion.
  4. Formally approve the Retention Plan, as endorsed by Administration, Faculty Senate, General Faculty, Student Senate, Staff Senate, and Board of Regents.
  5. Allocate adequate resources to retention, persistence, and completion.
  6. Demonstrate progress in implementing the Retention Plan.

Background: Over the past decade, Highlands has devoted considerable attention to improving retention rates, such as the Learning Communities, Integrative Seminar, the creation of the Center for Teaching Excellence, and the improvement of Student Life on campus. Despite the considerably energy spent on these efforts, they had not been unified and assessed under the banner of a single Retention Plan, or centralized in a single office.

Overview of Status: Highlands has already taken many steps to resolve this retention, persistence, and completion issue, including the creation of a new Office of Strategic Enrollment Management (January 2016), the formal approval of a Retention plan by the Faculty Senate, Student Senate, General Faculty, and Board of Regents (see below), and the hiring of Ruffalo-Noel-Levitz, an experienced outside contractor, to directly address these issues.

  Milestones Completion Date Responsibility Evidence
 ✓ Create the Office of Strategic Enrollment Management to provide institutional coordination and oversight to student retention, persistence, and completion Fall 2015 President University budget
 ✓ Hiring a Vice President of Strategic Enrollment Management January 2016 President University budget
 ✓ Allocate adequate resources to student retention, persistence, and completion January 2016 President University budget
 ✓ Reconstitution of the Retention Advisory Council to revise Retention Plan February 2016 VP-SEM Retention plan
 ✓ Revision of the Retention Plan, including justifiable objectives on retention, persistence, and completion February 2016-April 2016 Retention Advisory Council Retention plan
 ✓ Design a system of robust evaluation in the plan February 2016-April 2016 Retention Advisory Council Retention plan
 ✓ Approval of the Retention Plan by Faculty Senate April 13, 2016 Faculty Senate, General Faculty, Board of Regents Faculty Senate Minutes
Approval of Retention Plan by General Faculty  April 27, 2016 General Faculty General Faculty Minutes
 ✓ Approval of Retention Plan by Staff Senate September 1, 2016 Staff Senate Staff Senate Minutes
 ✓ Approval of Retention Plan by Student Senate September 18, 2016 Student Senate Student Senate Minutes
 ✓ Approval of Retention Plan by Board of Regents October 28, 2016 Board of Regents Board of Regents Minutes
  Regular meetings of the Retention Advisory Council to Monitor and Implement Plan Fall 2016 Retention Advisory Council Retention Advisory Council minutes
  Report on Implementation of Retention Plan to Faculty Senate, Administration, and Board of Regents February 2017 VP-SEM, Retention Advisory Council Retention Activities Summary
  Apply to HLC Persistence and Completion Academy November 23, 2016 VP-SEM, Director of HLC Accreditation Summary of Academy Activities
  Regular meeting of the Retention Advisory Council to Monitor and Implement Plan Spring 2017 Retention Advisory Council Retention Advisory Council minutes
 ✓ Report on Implementation of Retention Plan to Faculty Senate, Administration, and Board of Regents April 2017 VP-SEM, Retention committee Retention Update 2017-2018; 2016-017 Mission Accomplishments; Retention Accomplishments 2016-2017
Regular meetings of the Retention Advisory Council to Monitor and Implement Plan Fall 2017 Retention Advisory Council Retention Advisory Council minutes
  Report on Implementation of Retention Plan to Faculty Senate, Administration, and Board of Regents October 2017 VP-SEM, Retention Advisory Council Retention Update 2017-2018;  Retention Accomplishments 2016-2017; Open Forum Presentation 10/12/17