Since Fall 2008, UTPA requires entering freshmen students with an ACT score of 18 or less or not in the top 25% of their high school graduating class to enroll in the UNIV 1301—Learning Framework course during their first year of college. The course is designed to help students understand the principles of learning and motivation and to apply them to their own university experience. Its focus is on helping students understand their own learning styles and acquaint them with the expectations of learning in college. Approximately 77% of entering freshmen eventually take the course during the first year.
One of the goals is to help entering freshmen, early in their college experience, make conscious choices and appropriate decisions about their chosen career. Students with ACT scores of 19 or higher and graduating in the top 25% of their class are placed on provisional status. Their academic performance is monitored after the first semester to ensure they earn at least 12 semester credit hours and have at least a 2.5 term grade point average. If they do not, they are required to take UNIV 1301 the next semester.
In Fall 2000, the retention rate for first year students at the University of Texas-Pan American (UTPA) was 60%. In Fall 2003, it had increased to 65%. The retention rate for the entire entering freshman cohort has steadily increased since Fall 2000 as follows: Fall 2000 = 60% • Fall 2001 = 65% • Fall 2002 = 65% • Fall 2003 = 65% • Fall 2004 = 68% (first year of implementation of UNIV 1301) • Fall 2005 = 73% • Fall 2006 = 68% • Fall 2007 = 72% • Fall 2008 = 74% • Fall 2009 = 73%. The retention rate for first-time, full-time entering freshmen at UTPA has increased by 12 percentage points since Fall 2000, the greatest increase of all institutions of higher education in Texas. While it would not be accurate to state that all of the increase has been as a result of implementation of UNIV 1301, the data indicates that success of students in this course has contributed significantly to the overall retention rate.