APLU names the University of Nevada, Reno a 2018 Degree Completion Award finalist

Six-year-old NevadaFIT program recognized for impressive retention and graduation rates

The Association of Public and Land-grant Universities recognized the University of Nevada, Reno academic boot-camp program, NevadaFIT, as an innovative approach to improve degree completion.

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10/10/2018 | By: Natalie Fry | Staff Report |

As part of its ongoing efforts to increase degree completion, the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities today named the University of Nevada, Reno a finalist for its 2018 Degree Completion Award, recognizing the retention and graduation rates of the NevadaFIT program. The annual award works to identify, recognize and reward institutions that employ innovative approaches to improve degree completion while ensuring educational quality.

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The University created NevadaFIT, a five-day academic boot camp for incoming freshman to increase academic success for new students. NevadaFIT provides rigorous and realistic exposure to college-level classes so students know what to expect on the first day of class. It also eases them into the style, pace and intensity of college courses. Students in the program are organized into groups of six that are guided by an undergraduate mentor who forms a relationship with the students that lasts beyond the five-day boot camp. Starting in 2013 with 48 biology students, the program has been expanded to include 1,600 students across all majors at the institution. The first-year retention rate for students participating in the initiative is 87 percent, compared with 81 percent with students not participating in the initiative.

"NevadaFIT has been successful because of the remarkable University-wide buy in from every component of our institution," Executive Vice President and Provost Kevin Carman said. "Deans, faculty, advisors, all aspects of Student Services and - perhaps most importantly - the undergraduate students who serve as Pack mentors. This support for NevadaFIT reflects the University's broad and deep commitment to student success that is manifested in so many tangible ways at our institution."

The annual Degree Completion Award is open to all APLU members. A panel of eight reviewers examined the applications to determine the finalists. The award winner will be announced and all finalists will be recognized at the APLU Annual Meeting Nov. 11-13, in New Orleans, Louisiana. To highlight the winning institution's degree completion efforts APLU's President, Peter McPherson, will visit the winning campus to meet with university leaders, students and external stakeholders to celebrate the school's role as a national leader in developing innovation programs to increase retention and graduation.

"It's not enough to just help more students access college, we have to help more students graduate," APLU President Peter McPherson said. "That's why we're spotlighting five innovative public universities that have made exemplary strides in the number and share of their students completing degrees. In recent years, public universities have united behind a degree completion-driven agenda. Our Degree Completion Award finalists are showing how public universities can continue to make student success progress in years to come."

NevadaFIT also produced significant gains for participating first-generation, Pell and minority students achieving higher retention and graduation rates than the institutional rate. Moreover, the retention gap between participating and non-participating students grows over subsequent semesters. The four-year graduation rate for students in the first cohort of NevadaFIT students was 42 percent, compared with 32 percent among non-participants.

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"It is such an honor to be able to serve as a model to other universities," Felicia DeWald, NevadaFIT coordinator, said. "NevadaFIT continues to make strides every year, and this fall included almost half the freshman class. NevadaFIT 2019 will be bigger than ever. We are excited to open up this opportunity for more of our students and to extend our reach to other students at other institutions through this recognition."

The other finalists included Arizona State University with its eAdvisor program; the University of Memphis with its newly launched Finish Line Program; University of Rhode Island's comprehensive student success plan; and Wayne State University's Student Retention Initiative.

Past winners of the APLU Degree Completion Award and previous iterations of the honor are: University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa (2017); University of California, Riverside (2016); Morgan State University (2015); University of Tennessee, Knoxville (2014); Florida State University (2014); Georgia State University (2013); and San Francisco State University (2013).

APLU is a research, policy, and advocacy organization dedicated to strengthening and advancing the work of public universities in the U.S., Canada, and Mexico. With a membership of 237 public research universities, land-grant institutions, state university systems, and affiliated organizations, APLU's agenda is built on the three pillars of increasing degree completion and academic success, advancing scientific research, and expanding engagement. Annually, member campuses enroll 4.8 million undergraduates and 1.3 million graduate students, award 1.2 million degrees, employ 1.3 million faculty and staff, and conduct $44.9 billion in university-based research.

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