University News

WIU Recognized for "Beating the Odds" to Improve Student Success

August 29, 2011

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MACOMB/MOLINE, IL -- Western Illinois University is among 32 higher education institutions in the nation being recognized as a model for helping students stay on track and graduate.

Western is the only Illinois institution and one of three in the Midwest cited in a new national report published by HCM Strategists, a Washington, D.C. public policy advocacy firm. Western is profiled along with 31 other colleges and universities for its efforts to improve college completion rates and prepare students for successful careers.

According to HCM's "Beating the Odds" report, approximately 2.2 million students will enroll as full-time freshmen in America's colleges and universities this fall, but less than 60 percent will earn a four-year degree within six years and less than 30 percent will earn a two-year degree within three years. That reality is even worse for low-income and minority students, the report noted.

"Beating the Odds: What It Means and Why It's Important" was developed with support from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation as the result of a series of conversations with leaders from 32 postsecondary institutions about what colleges must do to help students – particularly low-income, minority and adult students – successfully earn a degree. Each of the colleges and universities featured in the report is considered a national model for their approaches to boost completion rates.

The "Beating the Odds" report identified four key approaches that are necessary for postsecondary institutions to dramatically improve student success: help students prepare for the rigors of college; focus on retention through student support; find new, innovative ways for students to access postsecondary education; and demonstrate leadership in creating a culture of completion by uniting the campus in a shared responsibility for student success and completion.

"The support we provide our students helps them to be successful. Western's First Year Experience gets students involved and off to a good start. Our academic advisers, housing staff and other support staff provide guidance and assistance along the way. This University's faculty also play a large role in our successful retention and graduation rates, which surpass the national average," said WIU President Jack Thomas. "Our special admission program allows those freshmen who show academic promise, but who don't meet minimum entrance standards, to enroll at WIU, and those advisers work closely with the students to ensure their success. I'm proud of the work we do to make a college degree an achievable dream for our students."

Western has been recognized by the Center for Student Opportunity's (CSO) "College Access and Opportunity Guide" for its retention of first-generation and low-income students, and was one of 13 institutions nationally to receive a "Best Practice" recognition from the Pell Institute for the Study of Opportunity for the retention of first-generation and low-income students. Western has also been cited as a "best practice" model institution among 15 U.S. colleges and universities, and was the only Illinois university cited, by the Southern Regional Educational Board (SREB) for retention and graduation rates, and was also the only Illinois public university and the only Midwestern public university cited among 20 other U.S. public institutions by The Education Trust for successful graduation rates for Hispanic students.

"The odds of a low-income American completing college haven't changed in at least 20 years," said Kristin Conklin, founding partner at HCM Strategists. "Western Illinois University is demonstrating how to beat those odds and ensure student success. They provide a blueprint for others to follow."

Posted By: WIU News (
Office of University Relations