The office of institutional effectiveness and inclusivity has revived a sub-committee focused on retention to study rates of returning students and to figure out how Dickinson can “move the needle” to make retention higher, according to Brenda Bretz, vice president.
The sub-committee, which used to be managed solely by admissions, is currently composed of a student senator, employees from admissions and financial aid and some faculty members. Members from different areas of campus have been added because retention is “integrally related” to enrollment, said Bretz.
During a Student Senate meeting on Tuesday, Feb. 12, the retention committee presented on student retention statistics and their reasons for creating the sub-committee.
Retention focuses specifically on students who return to campus for their sophomore year. The committee presented that Dickinson’s first-year retention rate has stayed in between 89 and 92 percent over the last decade.
“We have a fairly good retention rate, one that many schools want to have,” Bretz said, “but then moving the needle [towards higher retention] is incredibly difficult and we need to move it.”
The sub-committee will look at the time frame between fall 2015 and fall 2018, and will assess incidents that have occurred on campus that may have affected students’ retention. Bretz said examples include the departure of former president Nancy Roseman, the arrival of president Margee Ensign and a new vice president of Enrollment, student deaths, the removal of most male Greek life organizations and the recent on-campus housing requirement change.
“I asked people to send to me any thoughts they had or other things we as administrators may not be paying attention to,” Bretz said. The committee has asked other students to send them incidents that have occurred on campus that potentially impacted students’ experiences. According to Bretz, no one has sent her or the committee information about previous social incidents on campus including an October 2017 incident when a student allegedly wore blackface to a party.
Apart from campus incidents, the sub-committee will look at various first-year programs including summer advising, pre-orientation and regular orientation, along with first year participation in clubs and organizations. “How your first year goes really determines if you will continue,” Bretz said and added that first-year involvement in activities will make students “more likely to continue on and…seek people out to talk to.”
The retention sub-committee will continue working in the fall semester to decide how to increase the current retention rate.