by Brenda S. Landes, IHCC Counselor

Inver Hills Community College is a commuter campus located in a suburb of St. Paul, MN, enrolling approximately 5,000 full-time and part-time students each academic year.  Beginning fall semester 2007, all full-time students enrolling in college for the first time were encouraged to participate in one of three new retention initiatives:  1) On Course – a one-credit freshmen year experience class based on the Skip Downing text, 2) a Learning Community comprised of 2 or more integrated courses, or 3) a Learning Community with the On Course class as one of the integrated courses.   Approximately 23% (392 out of 1697) of all new, full-time students were involved in one of these three retention strategies during this first semester, with a higher proportion of males, students of color, first generation and low-income students participating when compared to the general population of first time students.


Research conducted by Danielle Ricard, IHCC Office of Institutional Effectiveness, shows significant improvements in the retention of students participating in these retention strategies when compared to the general population of new students.  These increased retention rates hold true from fall semester to spring semester, but also from fall 07 to fall 08 (see charts below).


Based on the positive results during 07-08, Inver Hills expanded the overall number of On Course sections offered from 17 during fall 07 to 25 in fall 08.  The college has also expanded the number of Learning Communities in which On Course is one of the embedded classes from 4 to 10 sections during fall semester 2008.


Since the implementation of the 1 credit On Course class in fall 07, approximately 1200 students have enrolled and successfully completed this “first-year experience” class.