For first time since 2007, the retention rate for the Emporia State fall freshman class is above 90 percent, according to data gathered by Noel-Levitz, a nationally known consultant for college recruitment and retention of students. Lew Sanborne, associate vice president of Noel-Levitz, presented his findings at an open forum Jan. 8 in the Preston Family Room.
“We are making some great progress,” said Jim Williams, vice president of student affairs. “Right now, in the freshman class that we recruited, all things as they are…we’re sitting at 91.9 percent retention of the students that started with us this fall, so our efforts and our focus on these things are paying off,”
The forum highlighted a two and a half year process during which Sanborne gathered data, met with faculty, students and staff to discuss what could be done to improve retention rates and set up models for predicting student retention. Over the course of eight visits beginning in 2009, he identified the groups of freshmen at greatest risk of dropout and updated the student satisfaction and college student inventory.
The college student inventory assesses concerns freshmen have about their academic futures. These allow advisers to properly identify students who may need extra assistance. Advising was a central point in the presentation, as it is a strength at ESU but also needs improvement professionally. Early identification of students at risk for dropout is also an area that needs improvement, and the goal is to adjust the survey to meet those early identification needs.
“Retention is perceived as everybody’s business because every contact with a student is fateful and has an opportunity to impact them,” Sanborne said.
Williams said that while ESU’s yearly retention rate, which falls between 68 and 72 percent, is within the national average for institutions similar to ESU, the goal is to continue to improve.
Williams also said he was pleased with how the faculty, staff and administration had pulled together to work with the consultant and begin implementing the strategies for retention.
The effects of the study have already begun changing the marketing strategy, said Gwen Larson, assistant director of Media Relations. Larson said the results show the university needs to focus marketing efforts less on rural areas and more on cities such as Kansas City, Topeka and Wichita.
Marvin Harrell, professor of mathematics, computer sciences and economics, said that while he appreciated all of the data given, he wished the presentation had been more focused on specific changes the institution will be making, rather than the vaguer categories.
The consultation process cost the university $206,000, plus fees. The full contract with Noel-Levitz can be accessed as a PDF file here.