Recent Retention and Graduation Rates Increase at Highlands

Las Vegas, N.M. – Recent retention  and graduation rates at New Mexico Highlands have increased.

According to the university’s Office of Institutional Research, overall fall-to-fall retention rates for first-time freshmen increased from 45.2 percent for the 2016 freshmen cohort to 51.6 percent for the fall 2017 cohort.

In the area of four-year graduation rates, the rate for the fall 2014 cohort of new freshmen increased to 20.4 percent. Previously, the highest four-year graduation rate was 11 percent.

“We are pleased to see a significant increase in our retention and four-year graduation rates,” said Lee Allard, director for the Office of Institutional Research. “These increases reflect the combined efforts of our faculty and staff to promote student success. We are confident that we can continue to work together to help our students succeed at Highlands and beyond.”

Some other recent fall-to-fall retention trends for first-time freshmen include:

  • The retention rate increased for African-American students from 11.1 percent to 47.8 percent.
  • The retention rate for Hispanics increased from 47.8 percent to 54.3 percent.
  • The retention rate for student athletes increased from 50.5 percent to 65.6 percent.
  • The retention rate for students who are the first in their family to attend college increased from 38.3 percent to 46.3 percent.
  • The retention rate for students who were eligible to receive Pell grants increased from 43.1 percent to 52.1 percent. Pell students often come from financially disadvantaged backgrounds.

The Office of Strategic Enrollment Management oversees retention at Highlands. Edward Martínez is the vice president of strategic enrollment management.

“Overall, we were more intentional in gathering data to determine why students were leaving Highlands,” Martínez said. “In doing so, we interviewed students and hosted gatherings to learn about why students consider leaving. We believe this engagement was one of the reasons our students persisted. We also did surveys with students who only stayed one semester to get their input.”

Martínez said Highlands was also more proactive in identifying at-risk students.

“For instance, Academic Support implemented the Enrollment Success Program in 2017. At-risk students actually sign a contract to participate in at least 30 hours of additional support like accessing services at ARMAS, the Achieving in Research, Math and Science Center, the Writing Center or our online 24/7 NetTutor program,” Martínez said.

Martínez said another retention strategy Academic Support implemented in 2016 is that every first-time freshman is offered additional advising focused on the student developing academic goals.

“This approach helps students to start thinking early about how to graduate in four years,” Martínez said.

He said “pre-registration blitzes” were another proactive retention and graduation strategy Highlands initiated in 2017.

“Different staff, including ones from our statewide centers, called students and offered to help them register for the next semester. As an incentive, we had pre-registration parties at The Skillet restaurant in Las Vegas for students who pre-registered,” Martínez said.

Martínez said that engagement with students has improved dramatically since the university implemented new retention strategies.

“We use multiple methods to connect with students like phone calls, emails, social activities, social media, and more frequent in-person advising,” Martínez said.

He said longtime Highlands retention programs like First-Year Experience, which is aimed at acclimating freshmen to college life, expanded in 2017 to provide more support from peer mentors.

Martínez said the Arts @ HU and Campus Life initiatives also helped retention by giving students more entertainment and activities that strengthen ties to the university and help provide a sense of belonging.

“All of these retention activities show students that we care and help them stay on track to graduate. The increased retention in the last year is a result of strong collaboration between many Highlands offices and academic departments. We’re using data-driven best practices that incorporate more student engagement,” Martínez said.