New retention records show Purdue students on track for success

September 29, 2010

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — Purdue is reporting two all-time highs for student retention, thanks to the university's first-year programs and strengths in undergraduate teaching.

The university's one-year retention rate increased to 89 percent, a 1.7 percentage point gain from last year's 87.3 percent, according to the university's enrollment management office. This measure shows how many first-year students who entered in the fall of 2009 returned for the fall 2010 semester. The university also is reporting a record with its second-year retention rate, which measures retention from the first to third years. It increased 3.4 percentage points to 80.6 percent from last year's 77.2 percent.

"These accomplishments are important because it shows that Purdue is supporting students who are willing to work hard to be successful," said Purdue President France A. Córdova. "This is possible thanks to the dedication of our faculty and instructors who are committed to excellence in undergraduate teaching, as well as the campus leaders who are committed to always improving, energizing and evaluating our first-year programs."

This fall, Purdue was acknowledged by U.S.News & World Report for its commitment to undergraduate teaching and programs that ensure student success. Purdue programs listed include first-year experience, internships, learning communities, study abroad and writing in the disciplines. Purdue also was tied for 12th nationally in a ranking of universities cited by college presidents, provosts and admissions deans as having an "unusual commitment to undergraduate teaching."

"I continue to be amazed by the passion Purdue faculty and instructors have toward teaching," said Timothy Sands, executive vice president for academic affairs and provost. "Not only are they dynamic instructors, but many are incorporating the latest in technology in their classrooms to ensure learning and interaction, and others invite undergraduate students to participate in research projects or case studies.

"Our first-year engineering program is stronger thanks to the new Ideas to Innovation Learning Laboratory, where engineering students acquire more hands-on experience in a team setting with direct interaction with a faculty member. Across campus, these efforts are making a difference."

Also making a difference are the first-year programs offered by Purdue's Student Access, Transition and Success Programs department. For example, students involved in Learning Communities, which groups 20-30 freshmen together based on similar majors or academic interests, have consistently higher retention rates than non-participants. The one-year retention rate for 2009-10 showed that students who participated in the program were retained at a rate of 3.18 percentage points higher than those who did not. There are currently 49 learning communities offered this year, and 22 percent of the freshman class -- 1,397 students -- are participating.

"We are seeing the same thing with our popular student orientation program Boiler Gold Rush," said Dan Carpenter, interim director of Student Access, Transition and Success Programs. "This year's program included nearly 78 percent of the new-beginner population. This program, which is focused on helping students acclimate to campus life, also consistently shows higher retention rates for students who participate compared to those who do not."

Other programs that help students succeed include the university's recently created Purdue Promise program for low-income Indiana students. It provides additional financial support to cover unmet need, along with academic and personal support for first-year Twenty-first Century Scholar students at Purdue who have a family income of $40,000 or less. It started last fall with 171 students and is now serving 372. This number also includes the Emerging Urban Leader and Purdue Opportunity Award scholarship winners who are required to participate in Purdue Promise. The support program consists of a mandatory first-year academic success seminar for each beginning cohort, as well as sophomore-, junior-, and senior-level seminars designed to aid students as they progress toward graduation. Students also receive one-on-one academic and personal support from staff, peer facilitators, and peer mentors. Only one year old, students in this program have already shown a positive one-year retention rate outcome when compared to Twenty-first Century Scholars who are not in Purdue Promise.

University officials expect to see Purdue's retention rates continue to climb, especially when next year's incoming class of students arrive. They will be the first to meet the university's new college preparatory math requirement, said Pamela Horne, associate vice provost for enrollment management and dean of admissions.

"Research shows that high school students who study math all four years of high school do better in college," Horne said. "Our message to prospective students is that success in college begins in high school, and if students come to Purdue prepared, then we are willing to help you succeed."

The USNews & World Report also ranked Purdue 18th among the nation's public universities. This ranking is up from 22nd last year.

Writer:  Amy Patterson Neubert, 765-494-9723,

Sources:  France A. Córdova,

                  Timothy Sands, 765-494-9709,

                   Pamela T. Horne, 765-494-7014,

                   Dan Carpenter, 765-494-8507,