Retention Rate Signals Student Satisfaction


In these challenging economic times, Maryville University is demonstrating signs of stability in regard to enrollment. More than 95 percent of first-year students returned to Maryville between the fall 2008 and spring 2009 semesters. Clearly, University initiatives designed to retain freshman students are working.

“We’re delighted with the number of students that have stayed with us from fall to spring and hope these latest figures are indicative of our retention rates next fall,” said Jennifer McCluskey, Ph.D., associate vice president and director of the Center for the First Year Experience and Retention. “While the national trend shows a decline in the number of college freshmen who return to the same college for their second year, Maryville is well-positioned to retain our students. Of course, we’re keeping an eye on the economy as a possible factor in next semester’s enrollment.”

Making Campus Connections is Vital
Maryville typically retains 92 to 94 percent of first-year students from fall to spring, McCluskey said. In 2007, the fall to spring retention was 93 percent and in 2008 it was also 95 percent; however, last year, many full-time students returned only part-time.

“This spring, all of our first-year students returned full-time,” McCluskey said.

Building on that success, the University intensified its efforts to help first-year students become involved in campus life – an important factor in their decision to return.

“We noticed that among Maryville’s work-study students and athlete scholars, retention is particularly high – 98 percent,” McCluskey said. “In these cases, making campus connections is the key. Athletes connect to fellow students, coaches and the athletics staff. Likewise, the work-study experience links students with staff and faculty members who can quickly answer the myriad questions asked by freshmen.”

Retention ranged from 89 to 97 percent in the College of Arts and Sciences and the schools of business, education and health professions. Most striking, the retention rate of Maryville students with undeclared majors stands at 100 percent.

100 Percent of Undeclared Students Returned
“Undeclared students are one of the most at-risk populations because many of them are unsure about their direction and why they’re attending college in the first place,” McCluskey said. “At Maryville, we focus a lot of attention on this population. We work closely with these students to assist them in finding an academic program that is fulfilling and engages them in learning.”

Faculty members are made aware of undeclared students in their classrooms so they can help these students discover their interests and passions, as well as identify particular skills and talents. In addition, advisors and staff members in the Center for the First-Year Experience and Retention, the offices of career education and residential life, and many other campus areas help undeclared students move toward a career path decision.

‘University Seminar’ Plays Key Role
“One of the main programs Maryville overhauled this year was the University Seminar program, which offers themed courses taught by faculty members who have a personal interest or expertise in the topic,” McCluskey said. Peer mentors, successful returning students who serve as role models and resources to first-year students, remain part of the program.

Freshmen are required to take one University Seminar course. Students will choose from 18 University Seminar courses next fall, including: Give Peace a Chance: Social Activism and Non-Violence; Know Your Rights, Fool!; Family Matters: Yes It Does!; Girl Brain – Boy Brain; and The Power of Dreams.

Campus-wide Effort
“It’s critical to involve the entire campus community in helping first-year students not only survive, but thrive during their transition period,” McCluskey said. “We benefit greatly from the culture of dedication within the entire Maryville community. It is that dedication – made obvious in many ways – that makes a first-year student want to stay here.”