Keeping students enrolled at Emporia State is one of the explicit goals of President Michael Shonrock. It is no easy task. One of the most widely-known facts about ESU, and indeed many universities in Kansas, is the lagging enrollment and retention rates. The obvious importance of retention to any school cannot be overstated.
So when our correspondent Lew Sanborne from Noel-Levitz, a nationally known consultant for college recruitment and retention of students originally contracted in 2009 and re-contracted in 2012, presented his findings on our efforts to retain students Jan. 8 in the Preston Family Room in Memorial Union, one would expect it to be considered a pretty big deal. But to the chagrin of The Bulletin staff, many of the students for whom these results are relevant were still on break and nowhere near for the meeting.
To be fair, the presentation had a decent turn out of faculty and staff, and there was a Buzz-In announcement Jan. 4 regarding the meeting as well, but what good is a mass email if its recipients are miles away and unable to attend?
The presentation showcased an increase in retention. The freshman class showed a nearly 92 percent retention rate in the fall. Hallelujah! Not surprisingly, undecided majors were one of the groups at greatest risk for dropping out. With all of the data provided at this meeting, we are still left asking, “Why not make students aware of their participation in retention? Why is it entirely up to faculty, staff and administration to engage this problem?”
Students are the lynchpin to social experience, which is something the quantitative analysis did not take into consideration in any exacting detail. One can make a reasonable assumption that Emporia is perceived as boring, lacking many of the amenities and attractions that other college towns flaunt. That is exactly why the students who stay at Emporia, who evoke the actual value of this great university, should not be ignored in ESU’s plan to attract students.
We should be involved in the discussion of strategy. This shaky ground can be solidified by students who are willing to speak to our school’s strengths in earnest, not as scripted commercials on area television stations. It begins with opening a dialogue with students, sharing comprehensive plans with all students (even non-Associated Student Government students) and participating in an institution-wide pep-rally of sorts to keep coming the steady stream of future Hornets. The retention meeting could have facilitated much of this if only it had been available to all of us.