1. What do we proactively do to identify these students? Do we have RAs alert us?
Yes, we have two systems in place that help RAs, faculty, and staff alert us to issues and concerns. One is the Student Alert System. Organized through Undergraduate Education, this system focuses on early intervention for academic issues (poor test grades, incomplete homework, missed classes, etc.). This system encourages those on the front lines to also let us know about medical issues, indications that the student is thinking about leaving UK, or behavioral issues (such as disruptive actions in class). When a faculty or staff person uses this system, their communication is directed to the student’s academic advisor; the advisor contacts the student and records the results of the intervention which we keep on file. There were approximately 4,500 alerts last year.
2. Do we assess those in fragile academic state after first semester grades and enhance counseling?
We do not wait for the end of the semester to begin this process. The Student Alert System allows faculty to report academic issues to us; this can occur as early as the first week of the semester. We also ask faculty to report midterm grades for undergraduate courses which Undergraduate Education, working with IT, collects and shares with Colleges. Undergraduate Education also shares this information about students with poor academic performance with the student’s advisor. This information allows Colleges and departments to identify at risk students and plan interventions as appropriate.
3. Do we monitor late payments as sign of financial stress?
At the end of priority registration, Undergraduate Education works with IT to identify current students who have not registered. We notify the colleges and advisors and the advisors call each non-registered student to ascertain their plans.
4. Do we provide financial counseling for these students when we learn of them?
The advisors do a good job connecting students to those offices in the university that offer financial counseling. Additional information about the exact nature of the holds would help if we can get that to the advisors.
5. What are the most common reasons students leave early?
There are a number of factors at play, not any one. But student surveys tell us that UK is much harder than high school (as it should be) and more demanding than students expected. Students often feel pressure to return home to help with the family in some way. Indeed, other student surveys indicate that the financial aspects, while important, are down on the list of reasons why students don’t return to UK. There are also issues of advising (changing majors, course selection, course availability) that student surveys have identified as among the most important in their decisions to stay at UK. A key to retention is connecting the students to the university and helping them feel like they belong.