Photo: The Fourth Night Ceremony celebrates the arrival of the new student scholars to the Millsaps community. On the fourth night of the students’ tenure at the College they pledge to uphold the Student Conduct Code and are challenged to uphold the high standards that Millsaps adheres to.
Millsaps monitors student achievement in many ways and continually evaluates results and ways to improve support to ensure student success. One key measure of academic success comes with comprehensive exams in the senior year. Faculty and students alike value this Millsaps tradition as a key performance measure of student success in achieving the learning objectives of our general education curriculum as well as those specific to each academic program. Results of comprehensive exams are evaluated on an annual basis and, based on these results, the content and delivery of the curriculum is evaluated to determine areas where improvements can be made.
Across institutions of higher education, there are several common measures of success which we also monitor. These measures, our goals for student achievement compared to these measures, and our actual results are as follows:
Retention of Students from Freshman to Sophomore Year
Throughout our admissions process we work hard to understand a prospective student’s academic performance to gauge their ability to perform well within the academic program at Millsaps. To assist students during their tenure at Millsaps, we provide deliberate and consistent academic support and advising services, including an early identification and response system for those who might be struggling in the classroom.
Additionally, while realizing that the academic experience is a primary driver, we understand that it is important for students to thrive both inside and outside the classroom. To that end, the College has a variety of programming for the student life experience outside of the classroom. A student who performs well inside the classroom and has an enjoyable experience outside of the classroom is most likely to continue their academic pursuits. We encourage participation in extracurricular activities so as to build connections and support across campus. Every four years, we conduct a quality of life survey to garner levels of student satisfaction and identify improvements that can be made to enhance this area of student life.
The related measure of success and student achievement is first-year retention (the number of students who successfully complete their freshman year and return in their sophomore year). Our goal is that 85% of freshmen return in their sophomore year. Our average annual retention rate over the last five years is 80.5%, which is in-line with the national rate for freshmen retention (77.1%), and just ahead of that for all public and private not-for profit four-year institutions of higher education in the State of Mississippi (75.9%).
Another measure of student achievement is overall retention, which we define as all students within the student body who did not graduate and who return the following year to continue the pursuit of their degree. Our goal is an 88% rate for overall retention. Our average annual overall retention rate for the last five years is 87.7%.
The federal government requires institutions of higher education to report their six-year graduation rate as another metric of student achievement. This calculation captures the percentage of a first year class, or cohort, who start with an institution as first-time first-year students and who remain with that institution and receive their degree within a six-year time frame. For a liberal arts institution like Millsaps with a high level of academic rigor and extensive student support structure, one would anticipate a six year graduation rate of at least 85-90%. Our annual average for the last five years (through May of 2015) is 66.2%. While significantly above the national and state levels mentioned below, this is below the mark and the focus of significant rebuilding to drive necessary improvements on behalf of our students.
At the national and state level, our five-year average can be compared to the 2005-2009 cohorts for whom six-year graduation dates would have been 2011-2015. During this time period on a national level, 55.9% of first-time, first-year students remained with their institutions and graduated within six years. At the state level, during this same period, 50.2% of first-time, first-year students remained with their institutions and graduated within six years.
Another way we look at student achievement is to measure the length of time graduates have taken to complete their degree. Our goal is for the vast majority of students (90%) who eventually graduate from Millsaps do so within four years. For the last five years, on average, 92.5% of Millsaps’ graduates have completed their course of study within four years and 99.3% within six years.
Satisfactory Academic Progress
This measurement is conducted in accordance with programs of federal financial assistance. Federal law mandates that those students receiving this assistance progress satisfactorily toward completion of their course of study. Satisfactory academic progress is measured in three ways—(1) students must progress qualitatively by earning a minimum grade point average (from 1.5 to 2.0); (2) students must progress quantitatively by completing the required minimum number of credits each year; and (3) students must complete their program of study within a reasonable time period. Our goal is that 90% of students be deemed as making satisfactory academic progress. Our five-year average for students with satisfactory academic progress is 93.1%.