Leading to higher rates of job satisfaction, higher incomes, and healthier, more engaged lives, earning a college degree is one of the greatest investments a person can make. Yet far too many students still face barriers to attending or graduating from college.
The cost of tuition and lack of financial aid remain the primary obstacles to young adults pursuing higher education, studies repeatedly find. For those who do enroll in college, less than half graduate on time, according to national figures. Even after six years, less than 60 percent of students at four-year colleges have earned their bachelor’s degree.
Moreover, first-generation, Pell grant recipients, and underrepresented minority students, on average, fare worse. These failures are costly and harmful for individual students and, collectively, represent a significant breakdown in higher education’s mission to advance societal equity.
To address this challenge, the University of Oregon has made great strides in improving access to college and overall student graduation and retention rates. But there is more work to do, and the university is intent on removing systemic barriers and closing the equity gaps that remain. Through investments and innovations in unique scholarship programs, advising, and wrapround and support services for students, UO is committed to helping all students achieve better and more equitable outcomes, to succeed in college and to prepare for the professional world.
As a public institution of higher education, there is no goal more important to our university and the State of Oregon than educating our students and launching them into productive lives. We want our students to graduate having had a positive experience, and to be well educated, socially responsible and career ready.
Students come to college with hopes of discovering who they are and what their life calling is. Universities need to provide opportunities for students to engage in a wide variety of academic, research, and social experiences, along with strong, established pathways to internships and careers.
With the university’s student body, like the rest of the country, set to become increasingly diverse in years ahead, it is also critical that the UO take additional steps to tackle systemic barriers in higher education, in order to positively impact student outcomes.
Through targeted investments, the UO offers effective and innovative advising and support services for all students—including programs tailored to those from diverse backgrounds—to help students find their way and remove obstacles from their paths. With our “Next Generation of Student Success” initiative, we are working to further refine our approach and to provide a more holistic support system for every student at UO.
Student success at UO means meeting individual students where they are, helping them create meaningful connections in the university community, and giving them access to the transformative academic, co-curricular, and professional opportunities that will invigorate them.
That work includes:
- Innovative scholarship programs that cover tuition while also providing academic and advising support to Oregon high school graduates,
- A reimagined and enhanced system of academic advising that gives all first-year students early opportunities to meet with advisors,
- Expanded community building programs for students just arriving on campus through our First-Year Interest Groups and Academic Residential Communities,
- Enhanced academic learning supports and adapted curriculum and teaching methods,
- Immersive undergraduate research opportunities,
- The identification and evaluation of institutional barriers in curriculum, academic policies and teaching practices that hinder student access and persistence.
- Access to inclusive counseling and other mental health supports to help students from all backgrounds with common college concerns and challenges,
- Leadership skill development through workshops and personal development coaching,
- New pathways to gain professional experiences, develop job-seeking skills, and to leverage the UO community for networking opportunities.
- A robust extracurricular experience which promotes student engagement in clubs and organizations.
- A focus on student well-being, including basic needs support.
Our approach has already yielded meaningful results: the four-year graduation rate for all UO students increased by almost 11 percent between 2015 and 2020.
As we emerge from the huge disruption caused by the pandemic, the UO is committed to being a national leader in student success and to addressing longstanding barriers to students by transforming our practices, policies, and curricula.
Our Impact / Our Approach
Improving student retention and timely graduation
To continue to raise the bar on overall graduation and retention rates, we are developing data tools to better time our advising outreach to individual students and to be more nuanced in our interventions. We are investing in digital systems to help students plan their courses of study and monitor their progress towards their degrees.
Providing transformative student experiences on campus
We know most successful UO students have a strong sense of connection to faculty, classmates, and advisors, as well as a positive mindset about their ability to achieve their goals here and after graduation.
To build those connections, we have created a diverse tapestry first-year community building programs. We’ve launched a Summer Bridge program to allow first-year students to arrive on campus early. And we’re piloting programs to bolster students’ career readiness competencies and post-graduation opportunities during their mid-college years, as career readiness remains one of the primary outcomes that students and parents, alike, seek from a college. We offer more than 300 student clubs and organizations that bolster student engagement and belonging.
Achieving more equitable outcomes
Uneven outcomes in student retention and graduation are simply unacceptable and their elimination is the top priority of our student success and equity efforts. To make this happen, we are focused on eliminating systemic and curricular barriers, bolstering targeted student advising, investing in programmatic efforts to achieve inclusion, financial aid, supporting students basic needs, and the hiring and retention of historically underrepresented faculty and staff.
Institutionalizing student success
Student success is the work of everyone at UO and it is critical that university stakeholders have a shared vision and message around our efforts and goals. We continue to work to institutionalize our philosophy and programs, so that we can ensure all facets of the university are engaged and actively working toward the goal of inclusive student excellence.
“Our mission is to holistically support our students’ individual educational journeys. We exist to help our students succeed. A great undergraduate education requires the commitment and collaboration between a multitude of advising and learning support services, including a robust integrated first-year and transition student experience, accessible education support, early exposure to career exploration, exciting undergraduate research opportunities, and campus-wide academic and co-curricular initiatives.”
Vice Provost for Undergraduate Education and Student Success
“At the UO, we recognize the tremendous impact academic advising has on the student experience. Advisors not only play a vital role in helping students progress in a timely way toward graduation, but they also frequently serve as trusted guides, helping students navigate a large university and connect with important campus resources.”
Assistant Vice Provost for Advising and Accessibility
"'Career ready’ is part of our definition of student success at UO, because we promise every one of our students that their time here will help launch them into a successful career. From their first term on campus, we provide our students with exceptional career support by helping them create career plans that integrate academic goals, gain valuable experience inside and outside of the classroom, and prepare to talk with prospective employers and others about the career competencies that they have developed."
Executive Director of Career Center