Re ten tion... Re ten tive ly... Re ten tive ness... Re ten tiv i ty
An analysis offered by the Office of Planning Services
The "bottom line" of higher education success, a measure of who arrives and then leaves (often these days) without the college degree. Retention is the "magic word" of American Dream institutions. Ideally, retention rates should be as close to one hundred percent as possible until graduation. The dream would have one hundred percent of our students graduating at the end of four-years or less. In reality though, retention rates are much lower than desirable and meld or fuse into graduation rates at a significantly slower than desirable pace.
Using 1987 as the base year, 572 full-time, degree-seeking, first-time freshmen entered Eastern New Mexico University. After one year only a little more than half (54%) remained as active students. This disappointing ratio diminishes each year (42%, 23%, 12%, and 4% respectively), but after three or four years are there any students remaining?
|Class of '87||Class of '88||Class of '89||Class of '90||Class of '91||Class of '92||Class of '93|
|# = Number matriculated, % = Percentage retained after one year|
Graduation rates at the fourth year are 9%. The bulk of the original population graduate during the fifth and sixth year, 20% and 26% respectively. 55% of the original population finally finish after six years and only 4% continue to struggle on towards a degree. The bottom line is less than one in ten students of the base year (1987) graduated within four years and less than one out of four actively continued to pursue a degree after four years.
The figure accompanying this article attempts to illustrate retentivity compared to graduation rates. When retentiveness is analyzed by sex and ethnicity, vast differences are evident. For example, 59% of the students who remained after one year were women, while 56% and 57% of Hispanic and Asian students (respectively) continued to seek degrees. While the discussion for this article center on the year 1987, data for each successive year was also analyzed. Generally, data for the groups (sex and ethnicity) revealed constant values. That is, there are relatively minor fluctuations within the ratios except for Black students as a group. Using years 1991, 92, and 93, first year retention rates are 56%, 72%, and 40% respectively. This was one of the widest spreads of the study particularly when considering the number of students involved (among Asian students in year 1989 only 2 entered and both left after one year).
Data for this article was originally drawn for a longitudinal study by the Office of Planning Services and then submitted to the University of Oklahoma. Complete copies are available from the Assessment Resource Office.