Predictive Analysis of One-Year Retention

University of Houston

Jorge Martinez, Caroline Neary, Jenna Tucker



In Fall 2019, Provost Paula Short charged a task force with developing evidence-based recommendations for increasing undergraduate student retention and timely degree completion in support of the University of Houston’s (UH) student success goals. Chaired by Dr. Teri Longacre,1 Vice Provost and Dean for Undergraduate Student Success members of the data subcommittee2 Jorge Martinez, Senior Research Analyst
Caroline Neary, Senior Research Analyst
Jenna Tucker, Director of Research and Reporting, Enrollment Services
Contributing members: Mary Dawson, Frank Kelley, Jonathan Williamson
were tasked to formulate a predictive model for one-year retention. What factors predict student retention and how can the task force leverage the predictive model into actionable policies and practices towards increasing retention rates? In this research report, we present findings from our predictive models to achieve these ends.

In this study, we compiled a host of predictors that experience and literature tells us are likely to predict retention. Using data available to us, we explored bivariate and conceptual regression models to identify the most important predictors of retention. We ran various models and selected the most parsimonious full-year model. We split our analyses into fall, spring, and full-year retention models to evaluate the best predictive value at three different time points. Finally, we calculated predictive probabilities from our models to score students for intervention. Ultimately, we can use these models to identify students in future cohorts so that our interventions maximize the probability of retention one year later.

Data and Descriptive Statistics

We focus our analysis on three full-time, degree-seeking, first-time in college (FTIC) cohorts from Fall 2016 to Fall 2018. Our total study population includes 13,927 students.

Cohort N Retention
Fall 2016 4,263 84.9%
Fall 2017 4,745 84.9%
Fall 2018 4,919 84.8%

One-Year Retention Rates, FTIC Cohorts 2007 - 2018. One-Year Retention Rates, FTIC Cohorts 2007 - 2018.

The average one-year retention rate for our study population is 85%. Since the 2007 FTIC cohort, one-year retention rates have increased from 79% to a peak of 86%. The retention rate has been steady around 85% for the past four years.

We tracked each student in our sample and collected demographic, admissions, academic, and financial indicators during their first academic year at UH. We considered all of the following characteristics in our analysis:

Admissions Demographic Financial Academic
High school rank Gender Estimated Family Contribution Hours taken
Transfer credits Race/Ethnicity Unmet financial need Hours passed
SAT/ACT Score Age Scholarship recipient Term GPA
Application date First generation status Lost scholarship Cumulative GPA
Orientation date Commute distance Financial aid award amount (excluding loans) Academic standing
First choice college Residency status Total loans D/F/W grades
Region of residence FAFSA verification selection College
Filed FAFSA as independent Full-time/Part-time
Pell eligibility STEM major
Financial delinquency (at end of term) UHin4
Payment deferment plan Honors
College change spring term
Math Core credit
English Core credit
First year math level
Term withdrawal
CORE 1101 enrollment