The student news site of Guilford College

The Guilfordian

The student news site of Guilford College

The Guilfordian

The student news site of Guilford College

The Guilfordian

Guilford College’s retention rate falls to ten year low, administration responds

The Oct. 1 deadline for re-enrollments has passed, and the statistics are in: Guilford’s retention rate has fallen to 68 percent, the first time since 1988 when it has fallen below 72 percent according to Director of Institutional Research and Assessment Thomas Coaxum. It is easy to blame this on either last year’s first-year class, administrative practices, or simply the plummeting economy. When asked the cause, three administrators responded similarly.

“Retention,” said Coaxum, “is a complicated issue.”

It’s a sentiment echoed by Dean of Students Aaron Fetrow and Vice President for Enrollment Services Randy Doss.

“Retention is incredibly complex to me, and I’ve worked in estate tax law,” Fetrow said.

There are three essential concepts that are necessary to understand what this drop in retention means. First is retention itself – the percentage of students who remain on from year to year. This is measured not from the whole population, but rather from what is called “the cohort”- the core of each class, consisting of first-year, first-time college students. Retention only connects to the behavior of this cohort, excluding transfers and CCE students.

The second word is persistence. This is what people think retention means – the total percentage of students that returns year to year. It is not used as a measure because it does not track individual students as precisely.

The third word is attrition – the total percentage of students who leave a college. This is also not commonly cited as a statistic because the reasons students may leave are so diverse and, as noted above, “retention is a complicated issue.”

To deal with this issue, the college has taken a number of steps. First, it has hired three new professional hall directors who will divert their full time to underclassmen who need their help. It has also hired a full-time academic advising liaison.

“The goal here,” said Fetrow, “is a coordinated response between the judicial and the academic response.”

“All we at Campus Life can do,” he said, “is the best we can for the students who remain. This is why we’ve tightened our enforcement of alcohol and drug rules on campus – because the dealers and drunks, they drag others down. We can’t control the students, but we can try to control the alcohol and drugs that affect them.”

About one third of the attrition is academic – “an uncharacteristically high number for a school our size,” says Doss. A further 8 to 10 percent are what Fetrow calls “physical and mental health” withdrawals, although as both noted, every student who leaves has more than one factor influencing their decision. Of particular note is the state of the economy, which Coaxum, Doss, and Fetrow all felt was of real concern in the past year and going forward.

Finally, both Doss and Fetrow noted that Guilford is a transformative place. As Fetrow put it, “You’ve got to expect that some people are going to transform differently.

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