The University of Montana is trying to help more students stay in school and earn diplomas by funding tutoring services and trying to identify struggling students early.
On a national level, UM is about average when it comes to retaining freshman and graduating seniors, said Royce Engstrom, provost and vice president for academic affairs.
Seventy percent of UM freshmen return the following year. Forty-three percent of the university's students graduate within six years, Engstrom said.
At the UM College of Technology, the retention rate is 48 percent and the graduation rate is 33 percent.
For the past couple of years, the university has been figuring out ways to improve its retention and graduation rates. It's not that there was a problem in these areas, Engstrom said. But helping students stay in school and earn degrees reflects the general performance of the university. It's a benefit to students, he said.
Part of the reason for the low graduation rate at the COT is because some students who enroll in workforce training programs care more about learning a specific skill than following through with the entire program and earning a certificate, said UM President George Dennison.
Dennison was among those meeting Wednesday with Missoula City Council members, Mayor John Engen and his staff.
Not every student will complete the entire program because "that student has been as successful as that person wanted to be at that time," Dennison said. "They got the job. We need to have the door open so when they find it necessary (to earn a certificate), they can come and get it."
In the next five years, the goal is to increase the retention rate of freshmen at the main campus to 80 percent and the graduation rate to 53 percent. The university hopes to increase the graduation rate at COT to 45 percent.
Achieving these goals would boost UM into the top national quartile of public research institutions in these areas, Engstrom said.
To do so, the university is working toward improving college orientation and increasing student engagement by offering more opportunities for undergraduate research, internships and studying abroad. It means improving mental health support and access to tutors.
For more information, read Thursday's Missoulian or go to Missoulian.com.