Retention figures like other statistics are meaningless unless placed in context. Remember there are many variables that contribute to retention/attrition and NEVER let your figures go out alone! For example. the faculty in one state university system were appalled because the developmental education department reported a 4 year graduation rate of 10% - what they didn't know was that the graduation rate of their regularly admitted students was 12%. (For more examples plus other ways to evaluate your program besides retention, see my book Evaluating Academic Skills Programs, MM Associates, Box 2857, Kensington, MD. $40 plus $6 handling: p.o/s accepted until this edition runs out.) Here are some figures that suggest what happens when you try to compare elephants and ants and antelopes. To be maximally useful you must decide group your institution resembles. CUNY is presently being attacked by the mayor et al who complain that only 5% of their open-admission students graduate in 4 years; however longitudinal studies show that 56% of open-admissions students had graduated with bachelor's degrees some 12-14 years after they were first admitted and 5200 have gone on to obtain post-graduate degrees. ( In other words, it takes them longer.) (Source: Lavan.D & Hyllegard, D. 1996.) 27 % of the underprepared ex-GIs who entered the University of Maryland in 1947 graduated after 5 years (there were 30 students in that group)- however, 10 years later a follow-up of a an entering class of 350 only 20% graduated in 5 years. Studies show that 30.6 % of the students who attended SI classes at UMKC graduated in 6 years, compared with 18.2 % of those who did not attend SI. (Source: UMKC SI Report : Student Success in High Risk Courses.) Robert & Thompson (1994) found that as a result of their learning center and other services, the graduation rate of minority students at UC Berkeley was significantly higher than the national graduation rate for minority students. In considering the factors that improve retention for at-risk students, don't ignore the studies on counseling and mentoring. -(See Upcraft, Gardner et al and other references below). Partial Bibliography on Retention. Astin, A. W. What Matters in College. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 1993. Boylan, H. R.., and Bonham, B.S. (1992). The impact of developmental education programs. Research in Developmental Education 9(2). (ALSO SEE ALL THE OTHER EXXON STUDIES IN RESEARCH IN DEVELOPMENTAL EDUCATION.) Burmeister, S. The challenge of Supplemental Instruction (SI): Improving student grades and retention. In M. Maxwell, (Ed.) From Access to Success, 1994, Clearwater FL: H&H Publishing Company. Fleming, J. (1984). Blacks in College: A Comparative Study of Students' Success in Black and White Institutions. Iowa City, IA: American College Testing Program, National Center for Advancement of Educational Practices. Lavan.D & Hyllegard, D. (1996.) Changing the odds: Open admission and the life chances of the disadvantaged. Hartford, CN: Yale University Press.) Levin, M. & Levin J. (1991). A critical examination of academic retention programs for at-risk minority college students. Journal of College Student Development , 32(4), 323-334. Martin, D.C. & Arendale, D. R. (Eds.). Supplemental Instruction: Increasing Achievement and Retention. New Directions for teaching and Learning, No. 60. Winter, 1994. San Francisco: Jossey Bass Publishers. Martin, D.C.. Arendale, D. & Associates. (1992). Supplemental Instruction: Improving First-year Student Success in High-Risk College Courses. (1992). Columbia, S. C.: National Resources Center for the Freshman Year Experience. Martin, D.C. & Arendale, D. R. (Eds.). (Winter 1994). Supplemental Instruction: Increasing Achievement and Retention. New Directions for teaching and Learning, No. 60. San Francisco: Jossey Bass Publishers. New Jersey Basic Skills Council. (1991). Effectiveness of Remedial Programs in Public Colleges and Universities - Fall 1977-Spring 1989. Trenton, NJ: New Jersey Board of Higher Education. ) (Has charts of retention rates and others criteria for remedial programs in each public college in NJ. Among other things, the data show that students who pass remedial math courses in community colleges remained in college at a higher rate than those who were not required to take remedial math. However, these findings did not hold for students taking remedial courses in4- year colleges. Noel, L., Levitz, R. , and Saluri, D. (Eds.) Increasing Student Retention: Effective Programs and Practicers for Reducing the Dropout Rate. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass. Robert, E. R. & Thompson, G. (Spring 1994). Learning Assistance and the Success of Underprepared Students at Berkeley. Journal of Developmental Education, 17(3), 4-15. Roueche, J. E. and Roueche, S .D. (1993). Between a Rock and a Hard Place: The At-Risk Student in the Open-Door College. Washington, DC: The American Association of Community Colleges. Simmons, R. (Summer 1994). Precollege programs: A contributing factor to university student retention. Journal of Developmental Education, 17(3),42-45.] Starks, G.(1989). Retention and Developmental Education: What the Research Has to Say. Research & Teaching in Developmental Education.(6)1, 21-32. Reprinted in M. Maxwell (Ed.) (1994) From Access to Success, H&H Publishers, 19-27. . Tinto, V. (1993). Leaving College: Rethinking the Causes and Cures of Student Attrition. Second Edition. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. Upcraft, Gardner & Associates, (1989). The Freshman Year Experience. San Francisco: Jossey Bass (1-800-956-7739).