Sophomore Retention Rates Increase Through SOAR Program

Published: February 27, 2019 | Author: Parker Nelson | Read Time: 2 minutes

student and ace sitting in the nestWith numbers booming for first-year students, Southern Utah University turned to their sophomore students with the intention to boost their retention rates. It is through efforts to increase these retention rates and enhance the second year experience, that SUU created the SOAR program.

The SOAR program focuses on enhancing and enriching the overall experience of second-year students. SOAR stands for “Success through Opportunities, Activities and Resources.” The main purpose of the program is to enhance the overall experience of second-year students through various opportunities, activities, and resources.

A key aspect to the SOAR program are completion ACES, mentors assigned to each student to help smooth the transition into their sophomore year.

According to Karlee Myers, a completion ACE, “the SOAR Program is such a great resource for all students in deciding how to best approach their next move in life. You get to decide what it is you want to do to better prepare yourself for your future.”

Along with the completion ACES, SOAR also features nine core competencies: Communication Skills, Teamwork/Collaboration, Leadership, Creativity and Problem Solving, Professional Development, Information Technology, Intercultural Perspective, Career Management, and Financial Management. In concert with these competencies, students can participate in seminars on financial security, networking, and resume building. Each competency is designed for students to get the most out of their education and prepare themselves for life after college.

Madi Maynard, a completion ACE, said about the SOAR program, “I love that the SOAR program pushes sophomore students to think about their future. On top of staying involved and succeeding academically, we ask students to achieve career readiness by developing a few of our nine core competencies. Our competencies are designed to set students up to succeed in school as well as their future career.”

Along with enhancing the overall experience, SOAR was also created with the hopes of improving second-year retention rates.

According to Eric Kirby, assistant vice president for student affairs (Completion and Student Success), “Southern Utah University increased retention of first-year students by 9% over the past three years.” Because retention for first-year students has increased by so much, SUU turned their focus to sophomores at SUU.

Data collected when SOAR was introduced showed that:

  • 1.8% more first-year students (over the point in time (PIT) last year) returned for their sophomore year this year.
  • We had the highest percentage of sophomores register for the spring semester this past fall when registration opened.
  • 2.22% more sophomores (all degree-seeking sophomores) registered for spring semester this year (fall to spring) over PIT last year.
  • 3.1% more FTFT bachelor's degree-seeking sophomores returned for spring semester (fall 2018 to spring 2019) over last year (fall 2017 to spring 2018).

According to Kirby, “the 1.8% increase resulted in 194 more students returning for their sophomore year.”

Through the SOAR program, students at SUU have received many opportunities to grow and develop not only as students but as people. The SOAR program engages sophomores by providing opportunities for learning as well as increasing the retention of second-year students.

Contact Eric Kirby for an interview

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