If you visit regularly you might think that I’m infatuated with statistics, since I use so many in posts and profiles. Actually, I am far, far from the greatest of math-letes. But I try to find the numbers that should mean the most to any student and their family in a college search.
And one of the most important is freshman retention rates.
The freshman retention rate is simply the percentage of freshmen who return for their sophomore year.
But this tells you other things besides the percentage of freshmen who stay.
High freshmen retention rates will tell you:
What causes schools to have lower freshman retention rates?
Should freshman retention rates be a deciding factor?
Possiblyr. I tend to be concerned when a college loses more than a fifth of a freshman class, especially when it’s a small or mid-sized regional private college. It’s very difficult to re-coop the loss of a fifth of a freshman class with new freshmen; more likely the school will have to attract more transfer students who will not need four years of financial aid.
So, one question you must ask any school with a low retention rate: what will it take to maintain financial aid? Some schools tie merit-based aid to the freshman year GPA, others consider it a reward for past performance in high school and will let you keep the money regardless of grades.
Then there’s another question. What if your heart is set on gaining admission to a degree program such as nursing, occupational therapy or pharmacy–and the only schools you get into have low freshman retention rates?
This should lead you to more questions to ask the faculty and administrators responsible for those programs, such as:
The answers to those questions will tell you more than the numbers will. A school that has a difficult time leading undecided students towards an academic direction may be very effective with the students who enter knowing what they want to do. It’s up to each customer to find out what will work best for them.
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