Missouri Western sees a slight dip in retention rates following last year’s all time high.
Retention numbers are calculated by looking at how many incoming fall freshman return for their sophomore year the following fall. Since the fall of 2000, Western has seen nearly a 12 percent increase, with this year’s numbers down by two percent to 65.6 percent.
According to Judy Grimes, dean of student affairs, retention is an important measure; however there are other factors that indicate an institutions success.
“We don’t like to talk so much about retention because we see retention as the byproduct and if students are successful then they will stay and they will graduate,” Grimes said. “If you just focus on retention then you can get lost in that battle because for some students the best thing for them is to transfer if we may not have the program they want or they have too much going on in their life.”
Through an unstable economy, Grimes is confident that Western’s two percent drop in retention numbers is not significant.
“Actually, you would worry that it would be higher because we know that we have had a number of students who just couldn’t afford to come back,” Grimes said. “We had a significant rise in students who turned in financial aid that showed one or two parents who had lost a job.”
Missouri Western continues to work with a Noel Levitz consultant, Tim Culver, to assist with recruitment and retention plans.
According to Grimes, the Enrollment Development Team met with the Culver in November at which time he suggested Western could profit from looking at students in the middle.
“We have pretty good support services that work with admitted with conditions students but we also need to look at students in the middle,” Grimes said.
With this year’s budget cuts and tuition freeze, according to Grimes retaining all students is equally important.
“Retention is labor intensive but the reward is significant, for students and the institution because with the state budget cuts increased revenue is our best shot,” Grimes said. “The budget is going to be a challenge this coming year and certainly the year after that. The state is telling us that there are going to be some major issues.”
With Culver’s recommendations to focus on students in the middle, as well as student affairs’ concern for sophomore dropouts, Esther Peralez, vice president for student affairs, is working on a program that focuses on Missouri Western sophomores.
“I wanted to initiate a Sophomore Jump program because nationally, one of the highest dropout rates for students is from the sophomore to junior year. While I do not know if that is the case for Western, I think it is important to provide academic and career resources at any level in support of retention,” Peralez said.
According to Grimes, Western’s goal is to continue to work with students from the very beginning through freshmen seminars, Griffon Edge and learning communities.
“We hope to get students on the right path, Grimes said. “Our retention rate looks pretty good compared to other institutions that we fit under, but not where we would like it to be.”
According to freshmen Sam Clough, the VIP’s personalities, confidence in themselves, contributed to her starting off on the right track.
“Griffon Edge helped me meet a lot of people,” Clough said. “Griffon Edge created a friendly atmosphere so you wanted to do your work. It’s a lot easier to do your work if you have friends to do it with.”
Clough believes that living in a freshmen dorm contributes to freshmen not doing well or not returning.
“I have to go somewhere besides my dorm to study,” Sam said. “It gets really loud and unless the quiet hours are enforced, students are not going to do very well.”