Tarleton Town Hall Participants Graduating at Higher Rate

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STEPHENVILLE — Empirical data shows that Tarleton State University students involved in its Town Hall program are substantially more likely to stay in school and graduate.

Tarleton Town Hall is a high-impact design for Federal Government (GOVT 2305) and Texas Government (GOVT 2306) courses. Developed by Tarleton faculty, the model aims to improve students’ civic engagement and community involvement.

Dr. Eric Morrow, Dean of the College of Liberal and Fine Arts, has kept records on the program since 2016.

The data has shown consistently that through Town Hall courses we are increasing retention across gender, ethnicity and first-generation students. In some areas it’s 20 percent higher than for students who do not participate in the Town Hall government courses.”

In the Town Hall format two 50-minute lectures complement one 50-minute lab on an assigned topic, also known as a peer-led breakout session, plus a semester-long project addresses state and federal policy issues. An evening event held in the second half of the semester brings students and experts together on the issues that have been researched.

Dr. Morrow’s information follows a decade of program success, starting at California’s Chico State University. Tarleton Provost Dr. Karen Murray was instrumental in identifying this and other civic engagement models connected to the American Democracy Project of the American Association of State Colleges and Universities.

In Tarleton’s 2016 freshman cohort, 467 of 2,169 students chose to participate in Town Hall courses. More than 60 percent of those students have graduated. Twenty-seven more are still enrolled, giving the program a projected six-year graduation rate exceeding 66 percent.

Conversely, of the 1,702 students who opted out of Town Hall, 681 (40 percent) graduated and 54 are still in school, resulting in a projected graduation rate of 42.36 percent in six years.

“With Tarleton’s six-year graduation rate averaging in the mid- to upper 40s, this increase above the non-Town Hall rate is quite significant,” Dr. Morrow said. “Programs like this will help us reach our retention goals set by our new strategic plan, Tarleton Forward. The success of Town Hall affirms Tarleton’s commitment to help students succeed early in their academic journey and to achieve a college degree.

Numbers for more recent freshman classes are similar. More than 66 percent of 689 Town Hall students starting in 2017 have either graduated or were retained to the fall 2021 semester. Percentages were 66.3, 67.5, 66 and 67.4 from 2017 to 2020.

“Our cohort numbers continue to increase, as we are now consistently above 600 Town Hall students from each cohort, with a plan to provide 2,400 total seats for Town Hall in the 2022-23 academic year,” Dr. Morrow said.

“We are also starting to receive attention across the Texas A&M University System, nationally by the American Democracy Project of AASCU, and by other universities who want to replicate our focus of retention models in core curriculum courses.”

For more information visit https://www.tarleton.edu/glsp/Town-Hall.html.

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