Published: Feb. 13, 2023

More CU Boulder first-year students returned to the spring semester this academic year, thanks to a focused and widespread effort on student success built on a number of key initiatives. 

“We hit a more than three-decade-high retention rate of 95.7% of CU Boulder’s first-year students moving successfully from the fall to spring semester this year,” said CU Boulder Provost Russell Moore. “In a time when college and university students—including ours—are still recovering from the pandemic, this number shows that our tight focus on student success is producing positive results.” 

Moore said that a fall-to-spring retention rate for first-year students is a good early indicator of student success and longer-term retention toward graduation.

“The first year requires a profound adjustment for many students, and to see this many returning to campus in the spring is one important indicator that their experience is off to a great start, giving us a better chance to keep them with us through to graduation,” Moore said.

Moore noted the combined efforts of CU Boulder’s faculty and staff, who he said have risen to the challenge “of serving and engaging with students in myriad and heroic ways during the last five or six years,” were at the root of the retention numbers. 

He also credited the campus’s Buff Undergraduate Success (BUS) initiative, a team formed in fall 2021 and charged with improving undergraduate student success by collaborating with faculty, staff and units from across CU Boulder to implement programs and processes to help students continue their CU Boulder educations, earn timely degrees and feel like they belong. 

The BUS team is led by two leaders from CU Boulder’s academic affairs division and two from its division of strategic resources and support. The BUS team’s work has devised and deployed more than two dozen individual projects with direct touchpoints to the student experience, from launching a new student communication model that consolidates student support and resource information, to creating a proposal for an enhanced campuswide academic advising infrastructure.

“The end game of BUS is a transformed student experience, not only for first-year students but for all undergraduates,” said Senior Vice Provost for Academic Planning and Assessment Katherine Eggert, BUS’s academic lead. 

“The fall-to-spring retention data for first-year students is a great indicator we’re moving in the right direction, and it’s incentive for us to stay on the course BUS has charted and keep seeking ways to improve our students’ CU Boulder experience,” Eggert said. 

Alongside an academic emphasis, said Moore, experts and leaders in the student affairs division have played a vital role in “zeroing in on the student experience to help students find their CU Boulder community, reach their personal goals and get support when they need it.” 

Moore recognized the close collaboration between the academic and student affairs leadership. The First Year Experience Advisory Board—a partnership among the Office of Undergraduate Education, the Division of Student Affairs, and colleges, schools, and programs—inaugurated and expanded living and learning communities in fall 2022 and will debut several more in fall 2023.

In addition, Strategic Resources and Support partners in the Office of Information Technology and Strategic Relations and Communications have added to their work by pinpointing the technologies and opportunities that connect students to the campus experience. Student input has also been key to many BUS projects.

“It’s a total team effort,” Moore said. 

Moore said the next phase of the BUS initiative will see the continuation or launch of 12 individual projects anchored in improving the student experience. 

“Though a 95.7% is an ‘A’ in any class, we’re not resting on this retention record. We’re taking on the challenge of year-over-year retention rates and, of course, the four-year graduation rate,” Moore said.