Briefing examines factors that drove unusual drop in Purdue’s first-year retention rate

Purdue’s first-year retention rate dropped for the first time in nine years driven primarily by a change in the academic probation and dismissal policy and an increase in enrollment of Pell eligible and first-generation students.

The 1 percent decline is the focus of the latest briefing from the Office of Institutional Research, Assessment and Effectiveness. The report was a collaboration between OIRAE and Purdue’s Enrollment Management Analysis and Reporting unit.

A public forum on the report will be held at 10 a.m. Monday, Feb. 13, in Knoy Hall, Room B033.

In the fall of 2015 Purdue’s academic probation and dismissal policy changed so that a student with a semester or cumulative GPA below 2.0 is placed on probation, and if their GPA remains this low while on probation they are dismissed. The policy change was enacted after a great deal of examination on campus, including a study of student success patterns, and with a full understanding that it would place more students on academic probation, according to the OIRAE briefing.

One year later the academic dropped rate was 0.9 percentage points higher than the previous year’s cohort. However, though the first-year retention rate declined, it is unlikely that ultimately less students will complete their degrees at Purdue. That’s because the policy change is likely accelerating the attrition of students struggling in their first year, rather than delaying it to later in their academic careers.

Further, there was a larger number of Pell eligible and first-generation students enrolled in the fall 2015 class. Students who are eligible for Pell grants, who are the first in their family to attend college, or both are traditionally more at risk of dropping out. Resource and program constraints meant that many of these students were unable to enroll in Purdue’s primary success programs targeted at retaining them, leading to the slightly larger drop in the group’s one-year retention rates. 

Purdue is expanding its efforts to help these students succeed and the OIRAE report recommends that the expansion continue.

To read January’s briefing or previous OIRAE briefings, visit:

Writer: Kirsten Gibson, technology writer, Information Technology at Purdue (ITaP), 765-494-8190,

Last Updated: February 7, 2016

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