University launches retention initiative aimed at low-performing students

  • Professional Development Symposium 

Between the 2013-14 and 2015-16 academic years, the number of low-performing freshmen at the end of their first fall quarter at DePaul doubled to 223 students. Historically, a small number of these first quarter low-performers graduate, and many have not persisted past their first year. The university Executive Retention Group (XRG), the body charged with understanding and increasing rates of degree completion at DePaul, noticed the sharp increase in low performers, and knew something must be done. Eugene Zdziarski, II, PhD, vice president for Student Affairs and member of the group, knew Student Affairs had the data, and the professionals, to address the issue.

Low-performing students are defined as any first-year freshmen with less than 12 credit hours, or 12-15.9 credit hours and less than a 2.5 GPA, after at least one full quarter of course work. Of 2,517 newly enrolled freshmen in Fall 2015, 223 were low-performing after the Fall quarter.

A Student Affairs strategy team that was focused on student transitions and increasing retention rates was asked to respond with student outreach, interventions and strategies to address the trend. In Spring 2016, 194 low-performing students were matched to departments across the university, including Residential Education, the Office of Multicultural Student Success, the Center for Students with Disabilities, TRiO, the EDGE Program, the International Students and Scholars Office, Commuter Student Affairs and New Student and Family Engagement.

Staff in those departments were asked to reach out to the low-performing students and ask the student how they are doing in general, ask how classes are going and then establish a plan with the student for moving forward and being successful.

Haydee Nunez, director of Adult, Veteran and Commuter Student Affairs, and a team lead on the divisional strategic goal team regarding student success, said that the positive response to this initiative was heartening. "Departments across the university were happy to be involved in this outreach to students. It's encouraging to be a member of an institution where we all agree that student success comes first," she stated in an email.

Nunez also noted that, with a process now in place, the division and university are prepared to identify students and intervene more quickly next year to help address the trend of increasing numbers of low-performing students. For questions about the low-performing student initiative, contact Haydee Nunez at 312.362.5961. ​​