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K-State Today

April 21, 2021

Establishing clear performance goals to close gaps in undergraduate retention and graduation rates

Submitted by Chuck Taber, Thomas Lane and Jeannie Brown Leonard

Dear K-State community,

"Walk the Talk" is the title of our Action Plan for a More Inclusive K-State. One of the ways a university holds itself accountable for walking the talk is to set clear measurable institutional goals and then regularly report progress. We know this works. In 2011, we set ambitious targets to measure our students' success and persistence to graduation. Our university strategic plan calls for institutional first-year retention and six-year graduation rates comparable to our peer institutions by 2025 and colleges and departments set goals in support of these targets. We are well on our way to achieving those goals, but we need to go much further to ensure all students are supported from recruitment through graduation. 

Although K-State has long tracked the equity gaps that exist for historically underserved students with a goal of reducing those gaps, we had not established clear institutional performance targets. Setting achievable retention and four- and six-year graduation rates across specific student populations that meet or exceed peer averages is a Strategic Enrollment Management (SEM) Plan priority. Noting that "persistence and degree completion are of paramount importance in today's competitive job market," our Diversity Action Plan calls for measurable goals to increase retention and graduation rates among students of color.

Increasing undergraduate retention and graduation rates, closing equity gaps for historically underrepresented groups, and reporting progress with specific performance metrics is not only a K-State commitment, but also a state goal, as recognized in the Kansas Board of Regents new strategic plan, Building a Future.

Today we are announcing an expanded set of institutional retention and graduation performance goals adopted as part of the Strategic Enrollment Management initiative. These goals will also be incorporated into university strategic planning and diversity, equity, and inclusion work as we look beyond 2025. 

You can view the University Performance Goals for Undergraduate Retention and Graduation rates here.

The key institutional measures now include:

  • Both first-year and second-year freshmen retention rates. 
  • Both four-year and six-year freshmen graduation rates. 
  • A transfer student retention and graduation rate. 

Performance goals are set across student populations, including all freshmen and by race and ethnicity, international, gender, Pell recipients, and first-generation students. Short-term (by 2025) and intermediate (by 2030) targets have been established, using this year as the baseline.

These new performance goals are a result of a collaboration between the diversity action plan step four team and the strategic enrollment management leadership team. We thank them for this very important work. 

Establishing measurable targets for retention and graduation goals is important, but won't guarantee success. Ultimately, success will be determined by what we do to achieve those goals — what strategies we put into place. There is much work to do. Look for future communications regarding ongoing and planned initiatives and how you can be engaged.  

Access for all is a value at the core of our historical land-grant mission. We aim to help our students meet their personal, academic, and career goals. To be a truly student-centered university, we must focus together on supporting the success of all our students. 


Chuck Taber, provost and executive vice president 

Thomas Lane, vice president for student life and dean of students 

Jeannie Brown Leonard, vice provost for student success


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