Keene State College has managed to keep an average amount of students returning to KSC for their second year; but in the past, percentages have been higher.
School officials said with a dedicated staff and open-minded students, the retention rate can increase in the future.
Some students may not know what to expect their first year of college and they might find that where they are, or what they’re studying, isn’t right for them. This is a reason why they might make the decision to leave.
All national colleges record the freshmen retention rate. The rate takes the number of first-year students in the college and compares it to the number of students that return for their second year.
Anne Miller, assistant vice president for academic affairs, said of the retention rate that, “it is a very important concept, it gives colleges and universities a way to check themselves and see ‘How are we doing?’”
She continued, “There’s a national average that changes over the years slightly. Because all colleges record the retention rate, it gives us a way to see ‘What’s going on at your school?’ It helps students also. It’s hard to decide where you want to go so that might be something you look at.”
Dean of Arts and Humanities, Andrew Harris, said the Office of Institutional Research defines retention as being a percentage of first-time, first-year, full-time bachelor degree seeking students who return to KSC from their first fall semester to the next fall semester. “First-time” means they haven’t been enrolled at a college prior to KSC. He said usually “first-time” students have graduated high school within the previous year and entered KSC as freshmen.
“However, if they return the following fall to KSC this does not mean they have advanced to sophomore status,” Harris said.
Some of the students who return the following fall haven’t actually racked up enough credits in the previous year to become sophomores, he explained.
Jay Sahasakmontri returned this year as a sophomore and said he’s glad he came back.
“I like our campus. It isn’t bad, it’s small enough where nothing’s out of reach. I like the classes; the sizes are smaller than other universities.” Sahasakmontri said he is studying biology and plans to go to graduate school after he acquires his degree.
Miller said 76 percent of last year’s freshmen in 2012 came back the fall of 2013. She stated that 76 percent is the national average. Miller said she thinks with the commitment of the school staff and the promising potential of the students, that percentage could be higher at KSC.
The last two years, 2012 and 2011, KSC has kept an average at 76 percent. However, in 2006, KSC’s retention rate was at a high at 81 percent. In 2007, it was at 80 percent and in 2008 and 2010 it was at 79 percent.
“We’re always looking at things that we could do to help more students finish the year,” Miller said. “Sometimes it’s because they weren’t ready for college, or because they have circumstances at home, like a parent’s sick and they are needed at home. Sometimes students just decide to go. I don’t think it’s ever one factor. I think usually students, their lives are more complex; a number of factors play to make the right decision to transfer or step out,” Miller stated.
Rachel Levi and Bobbi Hinsman are both freshmen at KSC. Levi just became Hinsman’s new roommate in Carle. She said this happened because her first roommate was doing poorly and dropped out. Levi said she doesn’t think the students here take things too seriously, but she said she plans on coming back next year.
Hinsman said she’ll most likely come back but it has come up in conversation about not returning.
“But it’s not because of the college. It’s because of my major. My major is biology but I wanted to go into pharmacy with it. I need to go to grad school, and the prerequisites that I need for grad school aren’t offered here. I’d have to be in the nursing program to get certain prerequisites,” she explained.
Hinsman said she chose to come to KSC more for financial reasons, and Levi wanted to stay in-state. They both stated they are enjoying their time as freshmen and would recommend coming to KSC.
Miller said KSC builds a strong institution by trying. The retention rate that the college reports is for first year students, but she said that KSC officials are also always looking at other classes. She said that last year they asked every academic department to set up a four year plan that students could use as a good map to get through planning their major. She said she wants to make sure all departments have a good map.
Miller said she believes KSC will benefit from building a facility that hosts different departments like academic advising, career advising and study abroad together. These would work as a “student success center,” Miller said.
“It’s an important thing I think about this center, is that it is for every student, the help their plan and stretch and challenge and support them. It’s not just for students who are struggling; it is for every single student. If you’re an A student and you want to go further and higher, I want to have some good things in place for that student, just like I would for a student who can’t figure out how to be a student,” Miller said.
She stated they will be developing a proposal by April. “Students keep changing, so what they need really makes a difference in their lives and their success,” Miller said.
Bethany Ricciardi can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org