Before I share a few thoughts on the recent positive news around our U.S. News and World Report rankings, I want to start this update with a quick roundup of four important items related to campus health and safety during the pandemic:
As announced last week, the University’s U.S. News and World Report 2021 Best Colleges ranking improved eight positions to #49, placing us in the top tier nationally. This climb is the result of a combination of both improved and sustained performances in a variety of measures, including student retention and six-year graduate rates, small class sizes, and accurately reflecting the scholarly profile of our faculty. Two new parameters were added—percentage of students with debt and average indebtedness—two areas where the University made very positive strides over the last several years. While we can debate the relative merits of rankings, they do highlight important metrics, both within the institution and relative to our peers. (For more information on the
rankings, please link to a recent News@TheU story below.)
If selected, it is essential that you participate in the quick and simple COVID-19 randomized testing; random surveillance testing is critically important in detecting and preventing potential spread.
Extensive contact tracing shows there is no evidence of spread in the classroom. To date, we have had no cases of classroom transmission. This is an important indicator that our safe classroom designs are working as planned.
Notifications to faculty regarding students who are either in isolation (tested positive) or quarantined (close contact of someone positive or symptomatic) have been automated. Should you be notified, and your class is following proper use of face coverings and physical distancing, you do not need to make any adjustments to your classroom or teaching.
Always ask students to show their “Good to Go” status generated by the Daily Symptom Checker—this helps protect you and other students from possible exposure and is another important part of our health and safety plans.
Retention and graduation rates in particular are at the heart of our mission and have achieved their highest levels over the last two years. In fact, improving year-to-year student retention is the single most important step we can take as an institution. The key figure I want to leave you with is 100—that’s the approximate number of students between our current 92-93% first to second year retention rates and achieving a 97-98% aspirational rate, which is closer to where our near peers in the rankings are.
One hundred students—that’s less than one percent of our undergraduate student body.
When we focus on such an intimate number, we are primarily looking at individual and not institutional reasons for a student withdrawing. Oftentimes, we suspect that the circumstances might be tied to financial aid and poor academic performance or to personal challenges and changing career interests. Yet, the data suggests that at UM, these are not the primary causes of departures.
Instead, students need to feel connected to someone they respect and admire and who they feel cares and shows an interest in their future. This meaningful connection between a faculty and student can signify the difference between them leaving or staying. I have never seen more passionate fans than those of our Hurricanes and yet, only about 10% of our alumni give annually to the U, well below our aspirational peers. What was their experience on campus or in the classroom?
Even in this time of COVID-19 disruption, faculty are three-dimensional presences in our students’ lives, and it is the fourth dimension of time—taking the time to care and show compassion—that will ultimately engage them intellectually, socially, and emotionally. It can be as simple as recognizing an improvement in a test score, an email recommending a next course, or offering a sincere “How are you?” and the space to listen to their reply. We can and must make the time for them. And, oftentimes, it is easier than we think and with positive benefits to the University.
100 students per year. That’s all that separates us from the potential and the promise of success for all our students.
In gratitude for your continued dedication to our students and to your scholarship,
The University of Miami jumped eight spots to No. 49 in U.S. News & World Report’s annual ranking.