Purdue’s graduation rate has increased by six percent in the last four years, and with the help of new programs, it’s expected to continue rising.

Among a variety of agenda topics, preparation for students’ academic success and the rising graduation rate were both touched on during Friday’s Board of Trustees meeting.

Acting president Tim Sands said the University has done a number of things and are doing still more to achieve a high graduation rate.

“It’s really a combination of intentional programs and admitting students who are academically prepared to succeed,” Sands said. “You need a little of both to see that kind of movement.”

Some specific ways Purdue tries to ensure four-year graduation include providing a strong advising system, allowing students plenty of opportunities to track their progress and giving students a chance to fully integrate into the University. One initiative Sands mentioned which encompasses all of these things was the Foundations of Excellence.

“It’s a program we’ve been working on for more than a year to integrate the first year experience for the first year student,” he explained.

Dale Whittaker, vice provost for undergraduate academic affairs, presented the final report of the Foundations of Excellence during Friday’s meeting. Whittaker said the program was put together by 200 people broken up into committees.

“We knew that the first few weeks, the first few months and the first year really matter in terms of whether a student feels confident, competent and successful,” Whittaker said. “(The Foundations of Excellence) was based on a lot of different forms of evidence and one of those was a survey of students and a survey of faculty and staff who deal with first year students.”

Components of the new report are aimed at helping first and second year students get successfully to graduation in four years. One of the components includes the Signals courses, which are courses that provide green, yellow or red “stoplights” on Blackboard depending on students’ performance.

“What we know is that the students who’ve had at least one Signals class tend to graduate on time at a much higher rate than a student who hasn’t had any,” Whittaker said.

Other initiatives included in the report are integrating academics into residence halls, redesigning courses through research to better teach students and creating a more mobile core curriculum, among many others.

“The plan was really focused on the first year,” Whittaker said. “It will have impact beyond that, but it’s really focused on, ‘How do we make sure everyone gets a really solid start?’”

Many of the components of the Foundations of Excellence are currently under way, and Whittaker said they’ve already seen changes.

Having a solid first year is part of what will make the difference in continuing to raise the University’s four-year graduation rate, Sands said.

“We’re not going to stop with the latest increases,” Sands said. “We want to bring our graduation rates even higher, and I’m pretty confident that we’re going to get there. We have a lot of momentum.”

Editor's note: Assistant campus editor Rachel Rapkin contributed to this story.

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