Student Success: Implementing Big Changes to Retain First-generation Student Cohorts

Tammie L. Nadeau, Ed.S., University of Central Florida / The Center / April 07, 2021

Several years ago at the University of Central Florida, we took a new approach to address the student success of our Summer Fall Full-Time (SFFT) First Time-in-College (FTIC) first-generation cohorts intentionally. We took a deep dive and reviewed ten years of data. As a result, we identified several areas in which to expand our efforts.

In partnership with key selected campus leaders and campus partners, we have steadily increased FTIC first-generation cohorts' retention rates from year one to year two at the University of Central Florida.

Our goal was to reimagine ways to serve and support the experiences and academic journeys of first-generation scholars better.

We recognized an opportunity to create a roadmap to launch and further expand our institution's strategic plan through the use of a collective impact framework and made intentional changes to address institutional priorities to include:

  • identifying specific teams charged with addressing FTIC student success;
  • aligning specific team goals to the institutional strategic plan; and
  • partnering with campus units and departments to identify barriers and gaps to student success.

Our approach to addressing the success of FTIC first-generation scholars involves:

  • collecting data on first-generation only, and first-generation, Pell-eligible FTIC scholars;
  • using the data to track and analyze scholars to improve year to year persistence, retention, and graduation intentionally;
  • intentionally and promptly addressing the issues new students encounter as they transition to the university; and
  • engaging peer mentors in the social integration of scholars during the first two semesters at the university.

Part of what has made our efforts successful is reflected in our intentional efforts to serve FTIC first-generation scholars. Additionally, we have found that transition support, expectation setting, and recognizing and celebrating first-generation scholars are essential to their success at the University of Central Florida.

For more information on University of Central Florida’s approach, please visit their website here.