Efficient progress through degree programs is beneficial for both students and the University.  Ignoring the potential positive spin-off effects on reputation and recruitment, from a purely financial perspective, higher graduation rates are economically advantageous for the University. The government is moving away from increasing university funding due to enrollment growth to increased funding for graduation. Since 2001, Carleton has seen a drop in graduating rates that if continued could translate into less funding for Carleton in the future.  The question we struggle with is why are less than 50% of our undergraduate students graduating in 4 years and what can Carleton do to shorten this time frame and improve its overall undergraduate graduation rate?

Our Strategic Impact Group (SIG) proposed an exercise to review and identify roadblocks to graduation and to propose ways that some of these roadblocks can be overcome. We started by examining the current Carleton graduation rates by faculty and reviewing the literature on university retention rates, highlighting key components that encourage retention and graduation. Our review identified student connection to the institution as a critical feature of retention.  We hypothesize that feelings of connectedness – to other students, to faculty and staff, to the institution itself, can facilitate retention, particularly from 1st to 2nd year.

We identified three features of the Carleton undergraduate experience that might impact feelings of connectedness:  Flexibility of the program structure, Variability between faculties and faculty services; and Diversity and expanse of web services.  Our presentation will discuss data from these three areas and the recommendations that emerge from this analysis.

SIG group members:

Anne Bowker: Associate Professor, Psychology

Brian Billings: Acting Director, University Safety

Dwight Duego: Assist. Dean (Recruit & Retension), Faculty of Science

Janet Hanna: Director, Administrative Services, FMP

Sylvie Lafortune: Head of MADGIC, Library

Robert Langlois: Professor, Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering

Jeff Smith: Associate Professor, Chemistry