UA retention beats national average
Arizona Daily Star
May 22, 2008


By Glenda Wilkes

Special to the Arizona Daily Star

Tucson, Arizona | Published:

Arizona has three great state universities the University of Arizona, Arizona State University and Northern Arizona University each of which is unique to its surroundings and in its academic offerings.

Arizona's high school graduates who have qualified themselves to attend college are privileged to be able to choose from among these outstanding institutions, and each institution is highly invested in retaining its students to graduation.

The purpose of this article is to insert into the public conversation accurate information regarding student success at the UA.

For every 10 first-time, full-time freshmen who enter in the fall, we retain eight to their sophomore year. Of the two who leave, one leaves for personal reasons that are beyond our control personal, family or health-related issues that prevent them from continuing. The second leaves for academic reasons.

If students are not engaging in sufficient study time outside of class (two to three hours for every hour in class), working with study groups, attending their instructors' office hours, or attending our Math and Science Tutoring Resource (MASTR), the result is that often grades fall below a 2.0 grade-point average. They are then put on academic probation and if they are not able to bring their grade-point average up to a 2.0 by the end of the next semester, they may be disqualified.For the eight freshmen who are still with us at the beginning of their sophomore year, the future is bright.

We beat the national averages for both sophomore-to-junior retention (74 percent) and junior-to-senior retention (78 percent). The national averages are 70 percent and 65 percent respectively, according to the Consortium of Student Retention Data Exchange.

So, as the adage goes in retention circles, "If we can make a sophomore, we can make a senior."

At the UA, minority students represent 28.5 percent of all first-time, full-time freshmen. This is significantly higher than the national average and we retain 77 percent of our Hispanic freshmen, also higher than the national average. We retain 74 percent of our African American freshmen and 58 percent of our Native American freshmen. We need to do better for these groups of students.

With the pool of college-bound high school graduates in Arizona projected to increase by 50,000 to 55,000 students by 2020, it is likely that we will continue to increase our incoming class sizes. This increase in students has and will continue to result in increased demand for classes and student support services of all kinds.

Juxtaposed with this demand is the fact that the UA has experienced 16 budget reductions in the last 19 years and the state budget crisis does not make the future look any brighter for funding for higher education in Arizona.

We are proud of our record at the UA and remain committed to utilizing our resources in the most efficient manner possible to ensure the continued success of all our students.

Graduation from college is a stepping stone to a life of professional productivity and participatory citizenship.

Helping students prepare for their many roles in life is a major goal of all of us who work in Arizona's universities.

Write to Glenda Wilkes at