By Julia Grimaldi
KU has been working to improve the university’s retention and enrollment rates. The results show: Our current fall 2013 returning 2014 retention rate is 73.5 percent. “In fall 2011, we had a higher retention rate, and it dropped slightly between spring 2011 and fall 2012 [to 71 percent],” said Natalie Snow, director of institutional research.
Initially, what affected our retention rate was satisfactory academic progress. Students receiving financial aid lose it if they spend two semesters under a 2.0. “I think as we’re educating students about that, we’re making strides in the right direction to help students persist in spite of that new policy,” said Snow.
Even though our retention rate is increasing again, our enrollment still continues to drop. This is not an uncommon problem, however. Ten out of fourteen schools in PASSHE are projecting a loss in the incoming class for fall 2014.
The most common reason enrollment has been dropping has to do with high school graduates. “There is a decrease in high school graduates, so there is not exactly a population to bring in as large as an incoming class of students and in conjunction with the retention rate, we always have to replace the students that we lose,” said Snow.
Luckily, these rates are not really affecting students. “Financially, we had to postpone the installation of the turf fields behind Keystone Hall for our sports teams. We’ve had to hold off on some [other] things [as well],” said Matt Santos, director of university relations. “We always look out for the academic core and student learning experience, so any kind of cuts we have had to make, we tried to make them so they wouldn’t impact those areas so heavily.”
To improve enrollment and retention, the university has been making changes. The Center for Academic Success and Achievement (CASA), has been working on early intervention techniques.
“Any student who is showing difficulty in a class, a professor can refer to CASA. CASA will contact the student and say, ‘Hey, we see you’re having trouble.
Is there anything going on? Can we help you get a tutor?’” said Snow.
Changes are also being made within the housing department. As of next year, upperclassmen are allowed to live in traditional halls, which could help with retention. The First Year Residential Experience (FYRE) program helps first year students feel prepared academically and socially. This program aids these students transition from high school to college. There are also learning communities within the dorms. For example, first year science students are placed in Schuylkill Hall and first year education students are placed in University Place.
“The message for our students is that we’ve had countless graduates that have gone onto successful careers,” said Santos. “This is our 149th year. The experience our students get today compared to ten years ago is better. I think the effort to make the overall experience for students is and will always be there. That’s what we’re here for: to provide a good education and give our students a good learning experience, and I think there’s examples of that throughout campus.”