Purdue retention rates increase for program serving first-generation Indiana students
Lauren Niehaus, at left, a first-year student in the undergraduate studies program from Huntingburg, Ind., works with her Purdue Promise tutor Alison Brown, a sophomore in math education from Monticello, Ind. Purdue Promise is in its third year of providing strategic intervention and resources for low-income, first-generation college students. (Purdue University photo/Mark Simons)
WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. - A Purdue University program that supports low-income, first-generation college students from Indiana is keeping more of them on track to graduate.
"Purdue Promise helps Indiana students by providing strategic intervention and resources for the whole student - personal, intellectual and professional," said Dale Whittaker, vice provost for undergraduate and academic affairs. "We're just starting the third year of the program, but we already see higher retention rates for these students than compared to their peers who don't engage in this program."
The students in this program qualify for financial aid based on a total student and family income. The retention rate for this year's Purdue Promise sophomores is 91.93 percent, and other students who meet the same low-income requirements but are not in this program are retained at 87.16 percent.
"Research shows that first-generation students are twice as likely to leave before their second year than students whose parents had a bachelor's degree, so it is amazing to see how strategic support and intervention resources can empower these students," said Jared Tippets, director of Student Access, Transition and Success. "This retention rate for these students also is higher than the average 90.24 percent rate for all Purdue students in their second year."
In comparison nationally, this same demographic is retained at 10 percent to 15 percent lower than their institutions' average retention rate, he said.
Purdue's program is administered by Student Access, Transition and Success (SATS), and serves 141 juniors, 205 sophomores and 253 freshmen. The program helps eligible students transition to college through required courses, learning communities, peer mentoring and individual support from SATS staff.
Purdue Promise provides financial and personal support for eligible Twenty-first Century Scholars, as well as recipients of the university's Emerging Urban Leaders and Purdue Opportunity Award scholarships. These three scholarship programs are based on merit and financial need.
This year's first-to-second-year retention rate is nearly 5 percentage points higher than last year's rate of 87.13 percent.
"The increase can be attributed to two changes: We increased our academic support services and restructured the peer mentoring program," said Jenna Seabold, SATS senior assistant director and coordinator of Purdue Promise. "We will continue to adjust and anticipate other needs. Many universities have similar first-year experience programs for this demographic, but we are unique because Purdue Promise covers the students through graduation."
Each year of the program is tailored to the participants' needs. For example, the first year focuses on transitioning into college and the second year focuses on campus involvement through employment and student activities. The third and fourth years are focused on planning for post-college, networking and job search.
"There are expectations and pressures unique to today's first-generation students," Seabold said. "First-generation students have diverse needs because their family members may not be familiar with the college environment and resources, and some students may have to help with family responsibilities or be more self-sufficient than other students."
In October, Purdue announced a new $6.7 million challenge to raise funds for scholarships, including Purdue Promise, for students from Indiana.
"Purdue Promise is supported by scholarship funds, and we hope to grow the program by generating more support," Tippets said. "There is great potential because 23.8 percent of Purdue's freshman are eligible for the Pell grant, and 22.6 percent are first in their families to attend college. That said, participating in Purdue Promise requires additional work and dedication for the students."
Trisha Rose, a junior from Rensselaer, Ind., studying speech, language and hearing sciences, is one of those students who credits Purdue Promise for helping her through school.
"I know I could have made it through college on my own, but I don't think I would have grown as a person, and this experience has given me skills that I couldn't have gotten on my own," said Rose, who is the student leader who oversees the program's mentoring component. She coordinates and plans events for the peer mentors and all of the first-year students.
"Purdue Promise is about academic, financial and social support," she said. "Some first-generation students really benefit from the peer support because there is so much pressure to meet the academic criteria and there is pressure from some families to do well."
Earlier this year, The College Board, a nonprofit organization that administers college entrance exams, selected Purdue Promise as the Midwestern Region winner for the Getting Through category of its CollegeKeys 2011 Innovation Awards.
"Purdue Promise is just one of several similar support programs that helps students succeed," Tippets said. "Other programs such as HORIZONS and Science Bound also help students stay in school and succeed in the classroom."
Science Bound, which graduated its first five students last spring, mentors sixth- to 12th-grade Indianapolis Public Schools students and encourages them to take classes in preparation for future careers in science, engineering, technology, agriculture, math-science education and related fields. Upon acceptance to Purdue, Science Bound students receive a full four-year tuition scholarship to study in an approved field. The program also is supported by the Indianapolis business community.
HORIZONS is housed in the Office of the Dean of Students and supported by the U.S. Department of Education. Students qualify based on financial need, and the program provides support in life skills and study skills.
Writers: Amy Patterson Neubert, 765-494-9723, firstname.lastname@example.org
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Sources: Dale Whittaker, 765-494-6970, firstname.lastname@example.org
Jared Tippets, 765-494-2451, email@example.com
Jenna Seabold, 765-494-6357, firstname.lastname@example.org
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