Published: May 16, 2023

The Buff Undergraduate Success (BUS) initiative made important progress this academic year on 11 projects focused on increasing retention and creating a sense of belonging for CU Boulder undergraduate students.

Ongoing commitments for fall 2023

  1. Begin implementation of the common curriculum.

  2. Implement a common framework for undergraduate advising across the campus.

  3. Implement a plan to reduce tuition and fees for lower-income students.

  4. Expand the transfer credit evaluation efficiency pilot to more departments.

  5. Create a campus network for call center staff.

  6. Create guidelines and training for using the new first-year student success dashboard.

  7. Align and unify support of key campus traditions for all students and affinity-based communities.

  8. Create a proposal for improving tutoring across campus.

  9. Improve the predicted GPA model for allocating merit scholarships and create consistent scholarship renewal criteria.

  10. Refocus CU Lead Alliance programs to provide consistent service to targeted populations.

  11. Create a faculty framework for Canvas grading enhancements and best practices.

  12. Review campuswide degree audit rules, encoding and exception practices.

Nine of the BUS projects for academic year 2022-23 were accomplished in full: 

  • A pilot in selected College of Arts and Sciences departments to speed up the evaluation of transfer credits.

  • A pilot of a new advising experience for newly admitted Alternative College Option students.  

  • A request for proposal for a new degree audit platform.

  • A centralized, published directory of affinity spaces campuswide (select “inclusive resources”).

  • A draft first-year student success dashboard created for review and comment.

  • Supporting the Boulder Faculty Assembly’s sponsorship of a vote by faculty governance groups on a campuswide common curriculum.

  • Centrally publicizing all campus tutoring centers.

  • Soliciting ideas from students on the newly launched student communications model.

  • Replacing defunct Minimum Academic Preparation Standards (MAPS) with new campus- and school/college-level recommendations for undergraduate admission.

Two of the projects were accomplished in part, with work continuing:

  • Updating the campus e-communications policy.

  • Streamlining review and approval process for late course withdrawals.

These accomplishments stem from “our commitment to work as a team across academics and the student support and student life functions,” said Katherine Eggert, senior vice provost for academic planning and assessment and one of BUS’s four co-leads. “This collaborative approach is truly the most efficient and effective way to ensure that our work helps students meet their academic goals and milestones and breaks down barriers that prevent them from feeling like they belong in the CU Boulder community.”

Eggert also singled out the council of deans for their crucial participation in and support for BUS efforts. “The deans of the schools and colleges are committed to improving undergraduate education for all students, not only the ones in their own programs. That’s a breakthrough approach that distinguishes CU Boulder’s student success initiatives from those of many of our peer universities.”

The BUS team is using metrics to evaluate different aspects of student success and make informed decisions about future improvements or enhancements. These data address areas such as grade replacement impact on student GPA, first-year students’ fall-to-spring retention (2022-23 versus previous years), the effect of text message reminders on students’ timely registration for classes, students’ progress in intra-university transfer, the effectiveness of the Alternative College Option Advising Pilot Program, the use and effectiveness of tutoring services, and how students have used the newly created Basic Needs Department in the division of Student Affairs, among other areas of focus.  

"We are gathering critically important data on student basic needs related to our metrics efforts," said Joe Thomas, associate vice chancellor for student affairs and BUS co-lead. "For example, between August of 2022 and March of 2023, the Basic Needs Center has supported 398 students with financial assistance through emergency meal cards and housing assistance, including assisting 25 students with emergency housing placement. We have seen a 110% increase in the amount of food being distributed to students in our on campus food pantry from March of 2022 to March of 2023."   

Also this year, BUS initiated a reenrollment campaign this spring with a goal of reaching a 90% fall-to-fall first-year student retention rate. Using data-informed targeting to encourage fall registration, the campaign kicked off with a message from the deans that communicated care and belonging and continued with offering individualized help from campus experts to students who were facing registration barriers. BUS is currently evaluating the success of this effort.

A number of BUS initiatives are designed to address affordability challenges, which directly affect retention, or to support students with minoritized identities across the university. For example, projects are underway to develop a consistent and streamlined approach for allocating, coordinating and renewing scholarships, refocus CU LEAD Alliance programs to provide consistent service to targeted populations and implement a plan to cover a larger portion of the cost of attendance for lower-income Colorado resident students.

BUS has already declared its commitment to complete 12 initiatives for the fall 2023 semester. “Our work as the BUS team—with leadership from units that include Academic Affairs, Student Affairs, Advising, the Office of the Registrar, Enrollment Management, the Office of Data Analytics, the Office of Information Technology, Undergraduate Education, Strategic Relations and Communications and the Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion—is concentrated and impactful,” said Eggert. “As we look toward the fall with 12 ongoing commitments, we will continue to use data to help drive our decisions and design metrics to measure our progress.”

The BUS initiative was formed in fall 2021 and charged with making data informed decisions to improve undergraduate student success by collaborating with students, 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.