LA CROSSE, Wis. (WKBT) -

Back in February, News 8 brought you the story of a new initiative at UW-La Crosse that looks to do a better job retaining freshmen students into their sophomore year.

This fall, the school finalized plans aimed towards that goal.

According to the latest data, 85 percent of freshmen who enrolled at UW-La Crosse returned last year.

Although that number is one of the highest in the state, the school joined 43 other schools in the "Re-imagining the First Year" initiative this past February.

Now the school has a plan in place, and they hope it better helps students stay in school.
For UW-La Crosse sophomore Megan Hill, her freshman year on campus wasn't exactly a walk in the park.

"My high school we had retakes and all of that for quizzes and exams. Here, you do it once, and if you fail, you fail. You're one and done,” Hill said.

She knows two friends who dropped out last year, and she says more could be done on campus to improve student retention.

"I don't feel like they do in the class, particularly. Because you are expected to kind of adapt to it,” Hill said.

For co-chair of the initiative and professor Tim Dale, succeeding in college comes from a sense of belonging.

"Part of that belonging is also a question of mindset,” Dale said. “The mindset that I can overcome challenges when I do poorly on something, I can work hard and become better at it."

As part of the program, each school developed plans in four "buckets,” or areas of improvement for student retention.

One of those plans is to help better teach students about their mindset within the classroom.

"Part of the mindset exercise is going to be students actually hearing the research about how the brain works,” Dale said. “It also involves teaching study skills. There are some people who believe that if they spend enough hours studying, just looking at the same material over and over again, that that's the best way to learn, when in fact research shows that there are other ways to study, particularly studying in groups."

Hill says those plans are a step in the right direction.

"The freshmen level classes is where you are usually put into your first year, so them just kind of helping you along and giving you tips or extra help when you need it would definitely be a good idea,” Hill said.

Last year, Hill got help at the Counseling and Testing Center, and she says over time, it became easier to succeed in the classroom.

"After a while you just get used to what college is like and you just adapt to your own thing,” Hill said.

Some of the other plans of the initiative include providing more help to students who are struggling sooner, as well as giving students an opportunity to do research earlier in their academic careers.

This year, UW-La Crosse is working on pilot programs aimed to help achieve these plans.
They hope by next year, they can provide more retention resources to all students.