Max Denning

In 2014, Eastern Oregon University retained only 56.7 percent of its freshman class into its sophomore year. Three years later,
70.1 percent of EOU’s freshmen returned.

Retention rates are defined as the percentage of first-time full-time students who enroll in the fall and are still enrolled in the university the fall of the following year. At elite academic institutions, retention rates often are between 95 and 99 percent. But at universities with higher acceptance rates and smaller price tags, retention rates are often lower, sometimes significantly so.

The website Unigo, a business that helps match students with colleges and scholarships, asked a myriad of college counselors why retention rates were important. Mollie Reznick, a college counselor for a private company, said retention rates can signal whether students are enjoying a university.

“This figure can be useful when assessing schools because there is an undeniable correlation between this figure and the overall happiness of students on campus,” Reznick said on Unigo.com. “If a school has a retention rate of higher than 90 percent, it’s likely that most freshmen are pleased with their experience on campus.”

The increased retention rate isn’t just the sign of a more committed class of students at EOU — its also the result of EOU’s endeavors to focus on student success and improve retention rates.

Kathleen Brown, the student success coordinator at EOU, said the school’s efforts to increase retention include giving personalized attention to students across campus.

“One of the things we have noticed throughout the years is you have to individualize retention efforts,” Brown said. “You can do efforts that are broad-based for all the groups, but different subjects (of study) have different needs for support, (and) different populations have different needs for support.”

Brown, who has been in her position at EOU for three years, said the university has initiated an early alert system for at-risk students.

“Because of the term systems in Oregon, once you get behind, it’s extremely difficult to get back,” she said. “So we are trying to figure out how to support students before they get behind.”

See complete story in Friday's Observer

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