CSUSM Shows Strong Growth in Freshman Retention

Cal State San Marcos has increased its one-year continuation rate for first-time freshmen to a new high of 77.3 percent. Measuring the reenrollment proportion of the 2009 freshmen cohort, more than 1,200 students persisted beyond the first year of college, an increase of nearly seven percentage points over the past two years.

"Nothing is more important than the success of our students," said CSUSM Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs Emily Fourmy Cutrer. "This increase further validates the continued collaborative efforts of faculty and staff to ensure that our students are on track to achieve their education goals."

The 77.3 percent retention rate represents a nearly three point increase from the previous year with CSUSM showing a steady increase in first-year student retention over the last four academic years. This year, most notably, the biggest spike was seen among African American students, which as a group experienced a 19 point jump in student reenrollment compared to the same group's prior entry cohort.

The success rate of first-time freshmen can often be a precursor to the retention and graduate rates of a university. Statistically, freshmen who enroll for a second year of study immediately after finishing their first are far more likely to complete their baccalaureate degrees than students who do not immediately reenroll. Within the California State University (CSU) system, the largest single-year drop in reenrollment occurs between a student's first and second year at college.

Since 2007, Cal State San Marcos has invested considerable energy assessing and improving its first-year programming. The most visible manifestation has been the university's participation in a national program-Foundations of Excellence in the First Year. As part of the program, CSUSM conducted an extensive self-study of its freshmen entry students. The data collected, along with national research, reaffirmed the correlation among first-year practices, retention to the second year, and graduation.

To better coordinate freshmen-focused activities across the campus, CSUSM formed a First-Year Council to oversee the long-term initiative. Action steps listed in the council's plan include the creation of a first-year website, expansion of remediation and summer bridge programs, further development of academic planning tools such as lower-division roadmaps to guide incoming students, and the streamlining of orientation, among other projects. With its record-high 77.3 percent continuation rate, these university-wide efforts are undoubtedly proving to be fruitful for the campus, which just celebrated its 20th anniversary.

"Nothing is more important than the success of our students," said CSUSM Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs Emily Fourmy Cutrer. "This increase further validates the continued collaborative efforts of faculty and staff to ensure that our students are on track to achieve their education goals."