Central State University

Boosting Reenrollment With Holistic Academic Strategy

After learning that declining reenrollment was linked to rising rates of academic probation and academic suspension, this university created a program that offers a success skills course, peer mentorship, and academic support to help students achieve good standing and complete their degree journeys.

Central State University has developed a holistic program that supports and encourages students to push forward in pursuing their postsecondary education goals. The majority of the students enrolled at Ohio’s only public land-grant historically Black university identify as African American, and over 50% are the first members of their family to attend a postsecondary education institution. For them, Central State University introduces them to innovative ideas and new opportunities that can elevate their economic status and improve their communities. However, some students during their first semester earn a 2.0 or lower GPA, resulting in them being placed on academic probation. If these students do not excel or get in good academic standing after the second semester, they are placed on academic suspension. Discouraged and frustrated, many of these students believe, “It’s over for me. There’s no hope. My candle just got blown out.” However, Central State has been able to help many students turn around that negative attitude and achieve success.

After reviewing enrollment data and trends, university leaders noticed that academic suspensions were decreasing enrollment numbers at a significant rate. To abate these numbers, the Marauder Achievement Program (MAP) was created. MAP consists of three components:

  • Undergraduate success skills course focused on goal setting, financial literacy, time management, and study skills.
  • Peer mentorship from former MAP participants who serve as student mentors and student panelists, providing boots-on-the-ground insights into how they pulled themselves out of academic probation and into academic success.
  • Academic support and touch points through an academic plan created with a designated advisor combined with constructive feedback and encouragement from their professors in the courses.

Students placed on academic probation are required to take the undergraduate success skills course; MAP is optional but strongly encouraged. If a student decides not to enroll in the course and MAP and withdraws from Central State University, they would be required to take the course and participate in MAP in order to reenroll in the university. Although it is a work in progress, MAP has been successful thus far not only in helping students complete their degree journey but also in recognizing and celebrating the strength and resilience of these students.

The Methodology

When Central State University leaders realized that rising academic suspensions and declining enrollment were intertwined, over 400 students were on academic probation that year. After brainstorming ideas to ensure those hundreds of students did not end up on academic suspension, the faculty and staff members created MAP and the undergraduate success skills course to help the students achieve good academic standing and remain enrolled. All academic advisors sent out correspondence to the students on probation, informing them that they were required to enroll in the skills course. Of the more than 400 students, about 150 students participated in and successfully completed MAP and its course.

Initially, program participants attended a summit where students listened to guest speakers on a panel who encouraged and motivated them to persist in earning their undergraduate degrees. The majority of these speakers were Central State University alumni.

However, students said they wanted to hear from their peers about how they improved their GPA with the help of MAP and the skills course to achieve good academic standing. MAP coordinators invited student speakers who had success stories to be panelists; their student testimonials proved to be meaningful and motivational for the current program participants. This opportunity also allowed the MAP graduates who overcame these challenges to become mentors and serve as additional resources to the current participants. MAP and the course also include an academic contract. Advisors and their students set goals that become the basis of their contracts or plans for improvement. The students’ professors also reinforce the plans and provide support to ensure they achieve their goals and improve their academic standing. The average contact MAP students have with a staff or faculty member is at least three times per week.

The Impact

The measures of the success of MAP and its undergraduate success skills course are enrollment and reenrollment. The more students enroll in MAP and its course, the more students reenroll. When MAP was first implemented, 20% of MAP student participants reenrolled in the following semester to Central State University after achieving good academic standing; in 2022, that percentage increased to 50%. Program success data is being tracked through the course and academic advisors.

Key Takeaways

Central State University encourages a campus culture of student engagement that welcomes and listens to student opinions and ideas. Students expressed their interest in placing program graduates with real-life experience in MAP and its course on the panel rather than staff, faculty, and leaders who tend to have a scholarly or theoretical perspective on student barriers. Since the change in the makeup of the panel, MAP participants have been more receptive to the support of their peers who have endured similar academic struggles. Central State University also has seen attendance at the student summit increase, resulting in increased student retention.

“If you look at any of our logos, you will see a tower in those pictures. And that tower represents the strength and the resilience of Central State University. When we’re talking about the value of an education here, it also speaks of the strength of the institution. And so with the Galloway Tower—before it was a tower, it was attached to an entire building—but in 1974, a major tornado came through the Wilberforce area, and it destroyed almost 90% of the campus. However, the building around the tower fell and was destroyed, but the tower was the one thing that stood strong. And so with the tower standing strong, students looked to that as a beacon of light, as a beacon of hope to connect them with the generations that came before them, and also to guide them and point them in the direction of their future.”

Ryan Griffin, Ed.D., Vice Provost of Engagement & Persistence Dean of Student Development, Central State University

“When you talk about the value of education, you look to the history and strength of the institution and its ability to be resilient no matter what. That same pride is what we try to instill within students, that this legacy started way before you came. There’s so much history wrapped into it. One of the programs I think of that’s within the student affairs division is the annual candlelight ceremony. The candlelight ceremony not only speaks of our past but also points students to their future. All freshman students partake in the candlelight ceremony. After their candle is lit, they travel from Paul Robeson Auditorium to our sunken garden. On their way there, there’s a line of alumni as well as current students who are cheering them on.”

Ryan Griffin, Ed.D., Vice Provost of Engagement & Persistence Dean of Student Development, Central State University

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