WVU reports increased retention, record graduation rates

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — West Virginia University has announced a rise in student retention rates and all-time highs in graduation rates.

As the 2023 fall semester comes to a close, Associate Provost Evan Widders presented new numbers that show that retention rates have risen to over eighty percent. This is an increase from the under-eighty percent that was reported in 2022 and compliments a reported graduation rate that reached past the fifty percent threshold for the first time in school history. As the school recovers from a contentious academic transformation and a declining student population, the news comes at a great time for WVU.

“We’re having a good year of success here at WVU, our first-time freshman retention rate landed at 81.4 percent, and that is a 2.4 percent increase over last year,” said Widders on the updated retention numbers.

Graduation rates for WVU students were also shown to reach record highs, with four-year degree graduates reaching over fifty percent at the end of the spring 2023 semester. This was a two percent increase from 2022 levels, which culminated in an over fifteen percent increase in graduation rates over the course of eight years. Widders calls the result a culmination of efforts by WVU and the student body.

“Four year graduation rates went up another two points as well, up to fifty percent,” said Widders. “Those numbers have gone up 14 percent over the last eight years, so it’s been a really good time for our students,” he said.

According to Widders, the rising retention rates and all-time high graduation percentages are attributed to a combination of factors. The first is an effort from departments that host freshman and sophomore-focused classes to prevent overlap, and the second is a focus on improving communication between students and their academic advisors. Moves such as the establishment of the REACH Center, which was opened in 2023 to assist first-generation college students, and changes in policy have received positive reception from both WVU staff and students, and they’re expected to expand in the near future.

“We’ve been working on our introductory math classes, and we’ve been working really hard to improve our advising,” said Widders. “(Also) our communication tools for talking to students about advising,” he said.

Heading into 2024, WVU aims to continue the multi-department synchronization of classes as part of the Foundational Stem Collaborative. The new initiative involves the mathematics, chemistry, biology, and physics departments teaching classes in a similar manner so that students can understand material easier and improve synergy in classes that are required to be passed for any freshman year WVU students to advance in their studies. With that effort, along with improved communication and improved class formats, Widders feels confident that retention and graduation rates will continue to improve.

“We’ve been working really hard to try and harmonize those courses that are so important for our first-year students,” said Widders. “And really get them to align better and make it as easy a learning experience as possible,” he said.