New University initiatives aim to raise student retention rate

Kate Snyder and Kate Snyder

The University is working on not only attracting students to campus, but getting them to stay as well.

The University’s retention ranked fourth out of the 13 public schools in Ohio during the 2006-07 school year; the following year the retention rate was fifth with 73 percent.

Gary Swegan, University director of admissions, said the University has been stuck in the 70s for a while.

“I think it goes all the way back to the mid-80s since we’ve had a retention of 80 percent,” Swegan said.

But new initiatives are being put in place to attract new students, and hopefully, Swegan said, to keep them at the University.

He said the University expanded the number of high schools it visits from about 400 to about 1,000, and more effort has been made to increase on-campus activities.

“Nobody was happy with 73 [percent],” Swegan said. “We have some work to do.”

He said they added temporary staff members so there is more effort by more people to add to on-campus programming. Swegan said advisers will also play a bigger role in students’ lives.

While nobody is happy with the current retention rate, Swegan said they’re optimistic for next year.

“We certainly believe we’re on track to grow the new student class 10 percent,” he said.

There was a 33 percent increase in applications this year, and admitted students are up 20 percent. Not all students in that 20 percent increase have paid the housing fees yet, but the number of those who have is also up.

Swegan said more concrete numbers will be in by next month, which is the deadline for prepaying the housing fee.

“May 1 is the witching hour,” he said.

He said after that date, the University immediately begins working to keep the students at the school.

“We hope to retain them from the day of admission to the first day of class,”

Swegan said. “None of those nice numbers really count unless those students pick BG.”

At BGSU Firelands, the retention rate is harder to measure than at the University’s main campus because of the different demographics of students.

Deb Divers, director of admissions at Firelands, said the applications are up 20 percent from last year, but Firelands students typically decide to attend school later in the year, so that number could change.

“We are definitely trying to target our own students to get them to register for fall,” Divers said.

After today, Firelands will pull a report stating who is registered for fall and who isn’t, and those who aren’t will be contacted about coming back, she said.

Another initiative to keep students is adding new associate’s degrees, including an online associates of arts degree.

Lesley Ruszkowski, director of marketing and communications at Firelands, said for the 2007-08 school year, 43 percent of students stayed at Firelands, and 14 percent moved on to main campus.

“We have a number of students who are first-time college attendees migrate on to BG,” she said.

LOOKING FORWARD

Enrollment for fall 2010Applications – 33 percent increaseAdmissions – 20 percent increase

ACROSS THE STATE

Retention rates for the 2007-08 school year (in percents)Ohio State University 93Miami University 89Ohio University 80University of Cincinnati 79Bowling Green State University 73Kent State University 73Youngstown State University 70University of Akron 69Wright State University 69University of Toledo 66