Shippensburg University officials have reported an increase in student retention for 2019.
During the Council of Trustees meeting on Nov. 8, Donta Truss, senior vice president of enrollment management, student affairs and student success, shared SU’s recent retention numbers.
Retention is the number of first-time students who start in the fall and return the following fall, according to Truss. This method is a success metric used across the country in most universities and systems.
“Retention, similarly, to recruitment, varies across the system. Across the state for four-year, public institutions, retention averaged 75.88% for the 2018-2019 academic year (www.collegetuitioncompare.com). As we continue to be intentional about retention, which is a campus-wide responsibility, our rates will increase,” Truss said in an email.
Truss stressed the importance of retention as the number of high school students in Pennsylvania is declining.
“The new first time in college number is still strong in comparison to what other universities in the system are experiencing,” Truss said. “This is a very difficult climate for growing enrollment.”
According to Truss, the retention rate at SU for 2019 is 75%, an increase from 72% in 2018.
He credits the increase to various changes implemented across campus. He said this includes efforts which focused on categories including first-time in college, readmitted, graduate, transfer, African-American, Hispanic, non-traditional, LGTBQ, first-generation, veterans and military, international students and students who receive accessibility accommodations.
The campus-wide collaborative First-Year Experience program is paying off with student success, according to Truss. In the three-credit course, students are given a “well-rounded experience” which helps them better prepare for the future.
Truss said the First-Year Experience curriculum focuses on four objectives: Cultivate academic and scholarly success, engagement with the university community, foster personal development and wellness and promote understanding of diversity and social responsibility.
Student connection is a key factor in retention, according to Truss.
“Connection is vital for any relationship to flourish. At SU, we are establishing relationships. Our programs are one of the ways we engage with students, so we definitely want the students to connect with individuals who are facilitating the programs and it the services we are offering,” he said. “Building relationships is essential to the success of SU and any institution that wants to improve student satisfaction, which means increasing retention.”
SU has introduced the “Each One Bring One” program. The program aims for alumni, staff, faculty, community members and current students to identify potential students so members of admissions can support them through the admissions process, according to ship.edu.
“It is important that every person on our campus becomes an ambassador for the university and recruits another student to come to our great university,” Truss said.
For those interested in referring a potential student, visit ship.edu/admissions/each_one_bring_one/.