First semester retention rates are at a 10-year high, according to data available from the Mount’s Office of Institutional Research. This year, 94% of the 417 students who initially enrolled in the Class of 2020 were retained for their second semester.
The data illustrates an improvement from recent years. Between 2006 and 2013, the Mount’s first semester attrition rate averaged at approximately 8.4 percent. In 2014, 14 percent of students enrolled in the Class of 2018 left the Mount after the first semester, followed by 11 percent of the Class of 2019 after their first semester in 2015. Only six percent left the Mount between this year’s fall and spring semesters.
Interim President Timothy Trainor attributes the increased retention rates to the efforts from numerous factors, but specifically the work of Dr. Gregory Murry, director of both the First-Year symposium as well as the Core Curriculum, the leadership of Associate Provost Dr. Paula Whetsel-Ribeau over the Center for Student Engagement and Success (CSES), and the continued supportive options from Learning Services.
Murry says that last year, the Veritas committee worked to make advising easier for both students and faculty members, by developing a “smaller and clearer core structure.” The reduced core provides students the space in their schedules to explore elective courses for the majors and minors they are interested in, a major request from students.
This initiative was further implemented when the CSES hosted the two-hour “Taste of the Majors” session in October, during which students could meet with an advisor from the field they were interested in and ask questions.
Trainor specifically praised Murry for putting together “a highly useful software tool to facilitate advising of freshmen.”
Murry described this software as a web-based tool that brings together a searchable course schedule (with a built-in conflict checker), the catalog language for the majors and a revised advising guide together on one website. Though it has been available for professors, this software made the advising guide available to students for the first time through the website, and via Portal.
“I used it in my own advising sessions,” Murry stated. “It was helpful for me, and I think it was perhaps helpful for some others.”
Trainor also praised Whetsel-Ribeau and the CSES for providing “access to many seminars and counseling to help freshmen get the focused help they need to succeed.”
Whetsel-Ribeau says that, in its pilot year, the CSES has been able to identify students that would most benefit from some of the programs that they sponsor. Some of these programs include academic support workshops, Honors peer mentoring, promoting Learning Services offerings, emerging leadership training through iLEAD, and more.
She says that the CSES has also helped to identify settings in which students are most likely to succeed: Those which establish clear and high expectations for their success, provide academic and social support, frequently assess and provide feedback about their performance and actively involve them with others on campus, especially in the classroom.
When asked to describe a situation in which a student might wish to transfer out, Whetsel-Ribeau stated that reasons vary from academic fit to finding peer friendships, economic struggles or other academic or personal reasons.
“My personal and professional responsibility to the student is to provide a safe emotional and intellectual space for them to work through the issues,” she pledged. “For many students, knowing that someone at the university cares about how they are doing is a powerful motivator and can help them establish a solid academic and social foundation for future success.”
Both Murry and Whetsel-Ribeau applauded Learning Services for being a major factor responsible for the increased retention rates.
“It is Learning Services, and, in particular, the Mount Cares Program,” Whetsel-Ribeau lauded, that “needs to be a focus as the unsung heroes and quiet power behind the retention success.”
Kristen Sites, Assistant Director of Learning Services, describes the increased retention rate as a success achieved through support from administrators, faculty and staff members. She explained, “without their efforts, ours would not be as valuable, so much credit should also go to these folks.”
“Absolutely every single thing that Learning Services does is to support and retain all of the students at the Mount,” Sites continued. “Our whole staff is working everyday to make sure that students have all of the tools that they need to be successful at the Mount.
Whether they obtain support throughout their first-year symposium, from the CSES, Learning Services or the university president himself, prospective students can rest assured that the Mount Community only has their personal and academic success in the forefront of their minds.