The Board of Regents approved the University of Louisiana's agreement to participate in the Grad Act passed by the state legislature during its last session.

Under the newly created law, the Regents have the responsibility for entering into six-year performance agreements with participating institutions.

"The Grad Act reinforces the university's strategic plan which at its core, focuses efforts on improving student services. We embrace the goals of the Grad Act and look forward to realizing its success, " said UL President Joseph Savoie.

The Grad Act includes four performance objectives - student success, articulation and transfer, workforce and economic development, and institutional efficiency and accountability. Earlier this week, the Regents reviewed the critical area of student success.

For that objective, UL reported a baseline retention rate of 75.9 percent for freshmen returning as sophomores from Fall 2008 to Fall 2009. This retention rate is currently one of the two highest among all public universities in the state. The data is being used a baseline for the next six years.

The university estimates that retention rates will increase to 78 percent for freshmen entering their sophomore year by year six of the agreement.

"In general, two factors will positively influence the increasing retention rates," said Dr. Carolyn Bruder, interim Provost and Vice President of Academic Affairs. "The first is the deployment of the new university-wide First-Year Seminar for all incoming freshmen, the Cajun Connection. The second is the implementation of more stringent admission standards in Fall 2012 which should support increased retention."

The First-Year Seminar focuses on stimulating incoming students' intellectual curiosity and social responsibility, and providing them with knowledge and insights necessary for fulfillment and success in college.

Student mentors assist trained faculty members who help with connecting and engaging incoming freshmen. The seminar promotes understanding of university life and processes and will create a sense of belonging to the university.

In addition to retention, UL's report on student success addressed graduation rates of entering freshmen in a six-year period. With a baseline of 40.2 percent, the university currently has one the three highest graduation rate among public universities in Louisiana. UL expects to increase graduation rates to 50 percent in the six-year timetable.

Strategies to increase these rates include increasing student support services, reviewing admission standards for reentry students, increasing dual enrollment opportunities so that students come to the university with an increased number of college credits, recruiting high-quality transfer students and increasing the number of courses and programs offered through distance and electronic learning.

The Grad Act allows participating schools that meet benchmarks to increase tuition by up to 10 percent a year until they reach the average of similar schools in the South. Once schools reach the Southern average, they can increase tuition up to 5 percent a year or an amount equal to the growth in a national higher education price index, whichever is greater.

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