MONMOUTH – Western Oregon University's Associate Provost David McDonald will use his success and experience on campus to address student retention as an invited presenter for the the Western Academic Leadership Forum (WALF) held later this month in Anchorage, Ala.
The focus of the conference is addressing the challenging decisions academic leaders must face in this economic downturn. Student retention is a crucial component to the success of any institution and McDonald is more than qualified to speak on the matter. His presentation includes information on how WOU has improved its retention rate including the regular collection and use of assessment data, and how the university has invested in services that support the success of students such as academic advising, financial aid and the Writing Center.
He developed and implemented programs that have strengthened retention and financial security at WOU, including the innovative Western Tuition Promise. This program guarantees and incoming freshman the same tuition rate as when they enter WOU for four years of their higher education. Students can plan for exactly what four years of college will cost them and address that accordingly.
This program has been a major factor in the continued climb of retention at Western. In 2005, when McDonald joined the university, WOU’s freshman to sophomore retention rate was 65 percent. After just two years the rate rose to 73 percent.
“Student retention is a critical measure of how effective a university is in its education and support for students. It is one of the most important early measures of institutional effectiveness,” said McDonald. “With the economy being so distressed retaining our students is critical in helping the students, their families and our communities build a strong foundation for the future.”
McDonald joined WOU after working as enrollment and student services director for the OUS. In that position he was a member of the senior management team for OUS. His duties included overseeing enrollment management and policy, affordability, student success and K-16 planning for OUS.
The agenda of the WALF conference had an impressive group of speakers, including Terry Hartle of the American Council on Education and Dennis Jones of the National Center for Higher Education Management Systems. A dialogue about strategies being used to ensure quality among necessary cuts on campuses, and innovative ways to collaborate across institutions, will be an important part of the conference.
WALF addresses regional higher education issues and engages in cooperative resource sharing. Its members are public and private doctoral and master's level institutions and university system offices and state governing boards in the WICHE states. The members are represented by provosts and academic vice presidents, and chief executive and chief academic officers from the state governing boards.
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