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Virginia Commonwealth University Case Study

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Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) positively impacted the quality of the educational experience for first-year students following the development and implementation of University College.

Background of the Problem
Administrators at VCU identified the university’s biggest strength, program and student diversity, as having created its biggest challenges. The University College Plan (Virginia Commonwealth University, 2006a) states that three of the biggest challenges the University faced were that,
More than one in five VCU students does not persist beyond his or her first year; one in four VCU students ends his or her freshman year on academic probation; and three in five VCU undergraduates do not earn a degree within six years (p.1).

Students at VCU were not persisting to graduation at the level that university leaders wanted. According to the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia (RT01: Retention Report (First-time, Full-time Students)), the first to second year student persistence rate for individuals who began at VCU in 1998 was 73.8%, in 2001 was 78.3%, and in 2003 it was 79.1%. The six-year graduation rates for the same cohorts were 37.1% (1998), 44.3% (2001), and 49.4% (2003). At the same time, first-year students were
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The university used a variety of data sources including NSSE, the Cooperative Institutional Research Program (CIRP), and student records that illustrated the needs for improvement. These problems were affecting persistence, graduation rates, and student success. First, from the 2004 NSSE administration, students reported poor academic engagement amongst undergraduate students. More than half of the first-year students reported spending less than 10 hours per week preparing for class. Over 75% of student respondents went to class without completing assignments and
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