For the second year in a row, North Central has posted record-high retention, according to Erin White, M.A., Dean of Student Advocacy. For any university, retention rates serve as a temperature check for the wellness of the university and an indicator of student success. White shared the following metrics as a snapshot of the retention status at North Central:
- The percentage of First Time in College (FTIC) 2017 fall cohort returning this fall set a new record for North Central at 80.1%. The ACT National Collegiate Retention rate average for four-year private institutions with traditional selectivity that have bachelor’s and master’s degrees is 71%.
- Another record was broken with the Spring to Fall Continuing Rate—representing undergrads enrolled in the spring semester who returned in the fall (accounting for those who graduated)—coming in at 87%. This is 3% increase over the previous high set last year.
- A new record was set for the 6-year Graduation Rate, 51.7%. This figure represents FTIC students from the 2012 fall cohort that graduated with a Bachelor’s degree within 6 years, comparing with an ACT National Average 50.9%.
- North Central’s 4-year graduation rate continues to be strong at 41%, the same as last year and comparing to the national average or 35.8%.
The significance of retention
A well-known term for higher education, a “retention rate” can be defined as the number of first-time freshman students in an entering undergraduate class who return the following fall. It is also used to track persistence from one term to the next for any give class or group of students, and measures both student and institutional success.
Positive retention data indicates that a university is healthy, and that students are healthy, and shows that students want to and are able to come back, to continue experiencing the community, and to finish their degree.
An intentional effort
Erin White, M.A., Dean of Student Advocacy, plays a key role in ongoing retention efforts. White is pleased with the strong retention data this year. “While there are always ebbs and flows in the world of retention in Higher Education,” White said, “these rates are significantly pleasing because North Central has been intentional about researching and focusing on areas of need in order to improve the overall student experience and retention.”
White explained retention-strengthening efforts North Central include a greater focus on historically underrepresented and under-served student populations such as first-generation, low-income, and students of color. “Rather than just adding more programs,” she explained, “we have been looking into ways to take down barriers that get in the way of student success. Having our president, Scott Hagan, talk about North Central becoming a university that looks like the kingdom [of heaven] has also given students who have been historically underrepresented hope for the future.”
Communication also plays a key role in the retention picture, White noted. Whether it is communicating effectively about big things happening on campus or making sure students have the information they need for day-to-day success, White believes effective communication strategy is vital. “Giving students a sense of hope for what is to come and communicating what to expect during their experience on campus has gone a long way in retaining students this past year.”