SAU’s overhaul of developmental education drastically improves student retention

In response to Arkansas’ need for more students completing a bachelor’s degree, Southern Arkansas University was the first four-year university in the state to complete an intensive overhaul of developmental education, and the results have been overwhelming.

Dr. Marla Strecker was hired in spring 2010 as the director of the new Developmental Studies department. She took on what she calls the “cheerleader” role as representatives from all aspects of campus came together to create the best possible redesign of developmental studies.

“Everyone was on board — deans, faculty, former professors, financial aid, student support services, student affairs, and the administration. It was amazing how everyone joined the cause of helping students move toward their degree,” said Strecker. “SAU is very responsive to the needs of its students and the needs of Arkansas.”

The redesign process was based on the need to improve retention of underprepared students and course completion in reading, writing, and math remediation. SAU’s redesign was extensive, and results exceeded any historical student success data at the University.

“We are supporting them to say ‘We care about you. We believe you can succeed. Let us partner with you to help you succeed and use the best of what we’ve got in all of our different programs to meet your particular needs,’” said Dr. Margaret Kincaid, associate professor of math. “I think that is something SAU really needs to be proud of because we are tapping in to helping this particular population be something that they wouldn’t be without that support.”

According to Strecker, all the redesigned developmental studies courses are geared to reduce the time it takes students to get their degree and to reduce the cost to students.

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