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Appalachian Receives Award for Innovative Student Retention Program

BOONE–Appalachian State University has received a Retention Excellence Award for its efforts focused on student retention.

The award was presented during the National Conference on Student Retention held in Washington, D.C. Both the award and the conference are sponsored by Noel-Levitz, an operating division of Sallie Mae and the nation’s leading higher education consulting firm.

Appalachian was selected for its Freshman Learning Communities in General Studies program, which aims to improve the institution’s freshman-to-sophomore retention rate. The program began in 1997 with just four courses and 84 freshmen. This fall the program will offer 68 Freshman Learning Community courses enrolling approximately 90 percent of the freshmen when classes begin in August.

The Freshman Learning Community (FLC) program consists of two types of courses:

  • Freshman Seminar in which all FLC students are enrolled in a graded, three-hour credit freshman seminar course during which instructors identify academic and/or personal concerns which may hinder success and connect students to the appropriate support resources, and
  • Major-Specific Course in which students are co-enrolled in one to two major-specific, introductory-level courses. Faculty in these classes help students connect with academic departments and resources that can support their graduation goals and career interests.

The freshman-to-sophomore retention rate for 2000-01 was 86.8 percent for students enrolled in a Freshman Learning Community program compared to 80.8 percent for students who did not enroll in a learning community class.

“Hundreds of thousands of dollars are lost to colleges and universities each year when students leave campus without receiving a degree,” said Lana Low, senior executive, Noel-Levitz. “Students miss out, too–those who stay in school and complete a bachelor’s degree earn over 80 percent more, on average, than those with only a high school diploma. This is why innovative retention programs, such as Appalachian’s, are so important.”

Other institutions receiving awards for their retention efforts are the University of Kansas and Columbia College in Chicago.

The Retention Excellence Awards Program TM

was established in 1989 to honor outstanding achievements in student retention by colleges and universities throughout the United States and Canada. These awards recognize innovative programs and services that have a positive impact on student retention by promoting student success and satisfaction on campus. Nominees are judged by a panel of higher education administrators and consultants on identifiable and measurable outcomes, originality, creativity, use of resources and adaptability to other institutions.


Noel-Levitz is a nationally recognized consulting firm specializing in higher education student recruitment, financial aid, student retention, market research, publications and Web development.

Since 1973, Noel-Levitz has partnered with more than 1,600 colleges and universities throughout North America. Noel-Levitz has offices in Denver, Iowa City, and Mississauga, Ontario, and is a Sallie Mae company.


Sallie Mae (NYSE: SLM) is the nation’s leading provider of education funding, managing more than $72 billion in student loans for more than seven million borrowers. The company primarily provides federally guaranteed student loans originated under the Federal Family Education Loan Program (FFELP), and offers comprehensive information and resources to guide students, parents and guidance professionals through the financial aid process. Founded in 1972 as a government-sponsored enterprise (GSE), the Student Loan Marketing Association, the company began the privatization process in 1997. Since then, Sallie Mae’s parent company name has changed, most recently to SLM Corporation (effective May 17, 2002). Through its specialized subsidiaries and divisions, the company also provides an array of consumer credit loans, including those for lifelong learning and K-12 education, and business and technical outsourcing services for colleges and universities. More information is available at SLM Corporation and its subsidiaries, other than the Student Loan Marketing Association, are not sponsored by or agencies of the United States.


Joni Petschauer, Director of Freshman Learning Communities, (828) 262-2167

Jane Nicholson, University News, (828) 262-2345