MADISON — To continue its efforts to strengthen student retention and graduation, the University of Wisconsin System is sponsoring a retention conference Monday and Tuesday (Feb. 4-5) at the Pyle Center on the UW-Madison campus.

The conference will include representatives from each UW System campus and focus on four main themes: campus climate, classroom climate, engagement and transitions into college.

Improving retention and graduation rates is a top priority for the Board of Regents. The board and UW System President Katharine Lyall are committed to increasing the second-year retention rate to 82 percent and the six-year graduation rate to 64 percent for new freshmen entering the UW System in fall 2004. These goals were based on the targets developed by each UW institution last fall.

“By increasing the retention and graduation rates of all UW System students, we can help the state of Wisconsin increase the proportion of Wisconsin residents with a college degree, which will benefit the state in multiple ways,” Lyall says.

For students who entered the UW System in fall 2000, 78.8 percent returned to the same institution for their second year. The latest UW System six-year graduation rate is 60.5 percent.

Lyall says the conference will allow UW campuses to share information on successful activities designed to improve student retention, identify best practices within the UW System, and develop strategies to increase retention and graduation rates at each campus. Participants will include faculty members, admissions officers, financial aid staff and student service employees in areas such as advising, student life, multicultural affairs, residence life, academic support and pre-college programming.

The conference begins Monday at 3 p.m. with opening remarks from President Lyall, followed by campus presentations on successful strategies and an evening discussion of the National Survey of Student Engagement.

On Tuesday, keynote speaker John Gardner will begin the day at 8:15 a.m. with an overview of the issues and themes of the conference. Following his presentation he will facilitate discussion of the conference themes.

Gardner is a senior fellow of the National Resource Center at the University of South Carolina and executive director of the Policy Center on the First Year of College at Brevard College. He has led an international movement to enhance the first and senior years on campuses across the United States and around the world.

“The UW System is committed to providing a quality education for all students and maximizing the number of students who achieve their goal of earning a bachelor’s degree,” says Cora Marrett, senior vice president for academic affairs at UW System. “The conference will assist us in this process.”

Media Contact

Erik Christianson UW System 608-262-5061