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The Guilfordian

The student news site of Guilford College

The Guilfordian

The student news site of Guilford College

The Guilfordian

College reports 95 percent 2008-09 persistence rate

“The national media is very concerned with retention statistics but I wish that they would pay more attention to persistence,” said Aaron Fetrow, Dean of Students. “Yes, first-second year retention is important but the key is persistence. We don’t just want to see students get to their sophomore year. We want to see them graduate.”Because retention looks at how many first time, full-time students return for the second year, Fetrow said that persistence rates are more inclusive and therefore are more telling of how well the entire student body is functioning.

“Persistence statistics measure how many students total return from the fall semester to the spring,” said Fetrow. “Persistence includes first years, sophomores, juniors, seniors and CCE students.”

However, Doss said that persistence rates for CCE students are calculated separately because CCE students “generally have a lot more to worry about like jobs and families.”

These circumstances are echoed in the results of the data collection.

The nine-year average of traditional student persistence from fall to spring is 91 percent, while the nine-year average for CCE students is 81 percent.

In terms of retention, Doss said that since many CCE students are not first time college students and transfer to Guilford, they are rarely included in these figures.

This retention rate of 68 percent is a figure that was released Oct. 1, 2008, and measures how many of last year’s first year students returned this year as sophomores.

According to Doss, persistence statistics are calculated from Oct. 1 to Feb. 1 of every year.

The 95 percent persistence rate indicates how many total traditional students returned from fall 2008- spring 2009. The number will be made official on Feb. 1.

“February 1 is very close and the rate for persistence looks to be way ahead,” said Doss. “This year we have the best persistence rate in this decade.”

Associate Dean for Camus Life and Director of New Student Programs Jennifer Agor said “the most common reason that contributes to lower retention is students who leave because they are academically dismissed or suspended.”

According to Fetrow, an estimated one third of students who do not return for their sophomore year left because of academic dismissals.

In fall 2008, Academic Affairs hired Barbara Boyette as Academic Advisor Liaison to help students stay on track with academics.

Associate Academic Dean Steve Shapiro reported that “fall 2008 traditional student academic dismissals/suspension rates were lowest in about a decade, dropping to 3.6 percent this past fall from 4.8 percent in fall 2007.”

Likewise, Shapiro reports that the new traditional student academic probation rate fell to its lowest value since at least 1995, which is the year when the Academic Dean’s office began keeping track of this statistic.

The probation rates measure how many students are newly placed on academic probation for the following semester.

“New probation rates for traditional students have dropped about one percent each fall since 2004,” said Shapiro. “The percentage of students on Dean’s List has been rather stable during this period, indicating that these improvements in suspensions/dismissals and new probation rates are not due to grade inflation.”

Shapiro said that the college is very pleased with this trend and hopes to make more progress in the future. He describes his role in this process as “both the coach and the umpire in a Little League baseball game.”

“In Little League baseball when the umpire doesn’t show up, often a coach has to be the umpire,” said Shapiro. “I want everybody to be successful, but if somebody is out at the plate, they’re out.”

Shapiro said that while personal effort and “doing the work” is the responsibility of each student, Guilford should provide them support on many levels-not just academically.

“The student is a whole person with many experiences on campus,” said Shapiro. “Students need support in the classroom, the residence halls, in extracurricular activities, athletics and all other areas.”

While one third of students leave because they are forced to leave due to poor academic performance, the remaining two thirds leave for a variety of reasons.

According to Associate Dean for Campus Life Bill Woodward, who handles the exit surveys, the top three reasons besides academic dismissals/suspensions are medical reasons, financial reasons and problems with “fit.”

“When it comes to medical and financial reasons, you can’t debate that because Guilford generally has no control over these factors,” said Woodward, “but when it comes to students fitting in, this is something that we can help them with.”

As a first step to creating these support systems, Guilford began hiring graduate hall directors. This year all part-time hall directors are graduate students, as opposed to undergraduate Guilford students.

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