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Removing institutional barriers to student success

January 31, 2023

Andrea Mostyn

Director of Strategic Communication, Missouri State University

The views and opinions expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views or opinions of EAB.

Improving student retention has been a long-term goal at Missouri State University. Before COVID-19, student retention was just over 79%. The university was making progress toward reaching a goal of 82% retention by 2026. In the year following the beginning of the pandemic, first- to second-year retention decreased substantially from 79% to 75%. Since then, retention has been slow to improve.

Topic and problem

This project explored the question “Does Missouri State University have institutional barriers making it more difficult for students to progress?”

The approach that I took to begin this project was to propose that the university complete the EAB Student Completion Policy Audit. The audit helps universities identify institutional barriers to student success, retention, and completion.

The policy audit looks at five key areas:

  • Degree planning
  • Accelerating degree progress
  • Registration and course scheduling
  • Preventing unnecessary withdrawals AND
  • Student messaging and outreach

The audit includes a series of questions in each area and answers are rated from too lenient, to best practice to too strict. The university’s Student Success Committee completed the audit, and we found that our policies were too lenient in three key areas:

  • Degree planning
  • Accelerating degree progress
  • Preventing unnecessary withdrawals

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The results of the audit were also shared with the Enrollment Task Force. The Student Success Committee and Enrollment Task Force collaborated to select short-, medium- and long-term actions to move toward best practices in the three areas where the university is too lenient.


The introduction of EAB’s policy audit helped the university broaden its view of factors that influence student retention and success.  It also helped identify data-driven processes and policies that could help improve retention and success on campus. On a personal level, the research and process I’ve been involved in has improved my ability to provide communication support for issues related to student success and retention.


The EAB Student Completion Policy Audit was instrumental in providing a new way for the university to view and evaluate student success initiatives. Paul Gunther from EAB was very helpful in guiding me in this project. Kelly Wood, chair of the Student Success Committee and associate provost for student success at Missouri State, supported me through this project and approved using the Student Success Committee to complete the audit. Anika Anthony, my EAB capstone partner, was very helpful along the journey.

See the fellows’ blogs from the capstone projects

Andrea Mostyn and others participated in EAB’s Rising Higher Education Leaders Fellowship in fall 2022

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