IAIA Struggles With Student Retention

By Donna Hall

Santa Fe, NM ”” Retention and graduation rates for The Institute of American Indian Arts (IAIA) vary greatly from year to year. A graduation rate table can show the statistics of an average student’s four year Bachelor’s degree plan.   On average, it will take a student six years to complete their first or only bachelor’s degree.   For the entering class of 2003, their graduation percentage was at a high number: 83%, however, for the entering class of 2004, the graduation rates were low at just 21%.   The following 2005 entering class showed a little increase in their graduation rate of 13%, making their percentage 34%.

Retention rates seem to fluctuate a little more evenly than that of the graduation rates at IAIA.   For IAIA, first-time, full-time freshman retention, to their sophomore year, the entering class of 2008 saw a percentage of 58% return for their sophomore year.   The 2009 entering freshman class saw a moderate decline in the retention for incoming sophomores the following year, and may show waves of good and bad years for both retention and graduation rates.   Since the last report from the entering class of 2010, the retention rate to sophomore year was at 72%, ideas were talked about on how to keep retention at this rate or higher.

The rates have shown dramatic change in retention, as well as graduation percentages, the instances of why students fail to return to IAIA vary just as greatly.   Some students that have not returned cite financial hardship as the determining factor.   “I have a bill for over a thousand and I can’t go back until it’s paid,” says Russell Sun Eagle, a former student from 2011.   “But that’s OK I am focusing on my Mixed Martial Arts fighting and that, I think, is going to be better for me.”

College students all over the country face challenges that might prevent them from returning a following semester.   Challenges from financial to family issues surface on a daily basis and can have an impact on whether of not one can return.

Like other campuses throughout the United States, IAIA has retention problems as well.

“Yes, all colleges have problems with retention,” says the Director of Student Success Nena Anaya. Undertaking a plan to increase retention, the goal for the school year 2011-2012 was to improve the retention rate by 10% and the graduation rate by 8%.   The Institute itself decided to embark on a plan that would attack the problems that face both IAIA and its students. The plan focuses on both new and ongoing initiatives that require immediate as well as long-term improvements.   The areas of responsibility varies from office to office, however because the Institute values its students, the President’s office and the Student Success Center’s office oversee the majority of these issues. To help retain students the Institute of American Indian Arts created the Student Success and Learning support center to make a “one-stop shop” for student services.   Within this center, the issues that come up with students are addressed and steps are taken to try and help them succeed.

Last year a student success summit was organized and students were invited to attend so any problems they were having could be heard in an open and understanding forum.   Thirty-three issues were brought to light ranging from preparing for graduate school to starting a cyber-café in the Center for Lifelong Education. Out of these 33 issues 29 have been addressed.   As of November 2012 the retention plan, as originally mapped out, was 88% completed. However that does not mean that all the issues were solved, just addressed.   With the continuing efforts of IAIA’s administration to improve communication with its students and dedication to their success, the retention & graduation rates are sure to improve.


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