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Task force working to boost retention

Nov. 4, 2005

by TIFFANIE BLACKMON, staff writer

Baylor is working to ensure students continue coming back each year until they graduate. The enrollment and retention management department has created a task force to do just that.

Diana Ramey, assistant vice president for enrollment management, said the Retention Task Force's plan to increase retention rates is an initiative of Baylor 2012.

Dr. Reagan Ramsower, associate vice president and chief financial officer, formed the task force in March. It is composed of roughly 100 faculty, staff and students who represent every school and college within Baylor's academic community.

Though the movement to recruit new students can be expensive, Ramey said it is "more cost effective to retain current students."

"By 2012, we would like the retention rate to be at 93 percent," said Elizabeth Davis, vice provost for academic relations. "Last year, it was about 83 percent, but we're hoping to increase in a linear sort of way and we feel like that 93 percent is where we need to be."

According to an interview with Randy Feidler for Baylor News Online, Ramey said both Baylor's first-year retention rate and its six-year graduation rate was above average when contrasted with institutions considered "comparable" to Baylor.

"Retention has long been considered to be a student life issue," Davis said. "But we had to make faculty aware of Baylor's retention status and our goals to help them understand retention is everyone's job."

Getting students involved on campus outside of the classroom through "student engagement" was an approach Davis suggested the task force view as a possible solution to improve retention rates.

Traditional approaches to helping integrate students into student life at Baylor include Welcome Week and summer orientations.

"Through student engagement, we encourage individual contact with students from faculty, and we do that through things like having Chapel Friday leaders," Davis said.

The task force identified its goals as improving student quality of life and learning experiences at Baylor.

"Retention is an outcome of a high-quality educational experience," Ramey said.

The Retention Task Force has since implemented new ways to make students feel more involved on campus and for Baylor to become more easily a part of their lives.

"About 19 percent of the fall 2003 freshman who responded to a survey indicated that they had thoughts about withdrawing within their first six weeks at Baylor," Ramey said in an interview with Fiedler. "Campus life can be overwhelming in the early months particularly -- not knowing where to turn or how to feel a part of things."

Enrollment management cited academics or health as the reason for most first year students leaving school.

Davis said retention had improved last year, and enrollment management and retention are looking to continue that trend.