University of South Florida


Becoming a Model for Student Success

USF students working in the USF Tampa library

For nearly a decade, the University of South Florida has been on a purposeful path to better help its students succeed. This transformative effort resonates through every office, classroom and building on campus, resulting in record-breaking improvements to student success.

Since the launch of USF’s targeted student success initiative in 2009, the university has seen double-digit gains in several key areas. The six-year graduation rate has risen to 73 percent – up from 48 percent just 10 years ago. USF’s first-year retention rate has reached 90 percent, the highest in university history. And its 4-year graduation rate has reached 60 percent, another USF record. All of this while also eliminating the graduation gap between white and minority students.

“We really believe it’s been our institutional culture that has made the biggest difference,” said Paul Dosal, PhD, USF vice president for Student Success. “The credit for that goes to President Genshaft for making an institutional commitment to this initiative. Everyone knows it; from athletics, to the business side of the university, everyone knows it’s a priority.”

USF is now sharing such results with more than 300 higher education leaders during the 2nd annual National Student Success Conference. The sold-out, multi-day conference is hosted by USF and the Florida Consortium of Metropolitan Research Universities, creating a platform to discuss challenges, trends and student success innovations.

Dr. Paul Dosal, USF vice president for Student Success, speaking at the 2019 National Student Success Conference.

Dr. Paul Dosal, USF vice president for Student Success, speaking at the 2019 National Student Success Conference. Credit: USF Student Affairs

A state-of-the-art predictive analytics tool is one of the many ways USF’s helping boost student success. The digital platform is designed to identify at-risk students and provide more timely support. To most effectively utilize the data generated from that analytics tool, USF also implemented a case management approach. It’s an idea borrowed from health care where a team of representatives from across the university work together to respond to those at-risk cases.

This initiative led to being named “Institution of the Year” by the Washington D.C.-based publication Education Dive in 2017.

Dosal says the conference provides a forum for USF to not only share its successes but learn more about what’s working elsewhere. Organizers hope to continue expanding the conference and attract even more higher education leaders from across the country – because it just makes sense to learn about student success in a place that’s pioneering it.

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