A Note on College Retention: Thinking and Writing in the First Year

The Thinking and Writing course has been among the most successful initiatives at Keene State College. The course has challenged faculty to re-examine their assumptions about the expectations of lower-division courses; it has raised academic expectations for students in the first year; and it has led to measurable gains in students’ reading, critical thinking and writing. So it was not a complete surprise to see in a fall report from our office of institutional research that far and away the best predictor of first-to-second-year retention is earning credit for thinking and writing in the first year.

According to the study, credit for Thinking and Writing increases the probability of being retained by 32.4%–from 52.8% to 85.2%1. Morever, Completing ITW in the first year does more to improve the probability of retention for women, racial/ethnic minority students, first-generation students, low-income students, non-residents than for their peers who are not in these groups. These findings, in conjunction with the annual course assessment as part of the integrative studies program, give us confidence that the course is helping students make measurable academic progress while supporting them as they meet the challenges of their first year in college.

1See Katherine Turrentine. “Predictors of Retention and Progression Toward Graduation. Part Two: Factors Predicting First-to-Second-Year Retention and Progression to Sophomore Status for the 2010 Cohort.” Keene State College Office of Institutional Research. December 2011. Web.

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