Why Retention is So Important, and What Colleges are Doing About It

Only about70% of freshmen return to the same college for their sophomore year. And only 59% of students graduate from college within six years. Retention is an important issue for colleges for several reasons. Based on a report by Noel Levitz, the median cost to recruit a student is $2,433 for private colleges and $457 for public colleges. Obviously a college benefits financially when they do not have to spend this money every time a freshman fails to return for their sophomore year.

More than that, dropouts and transfer students ultimately impact the graduation rate of the school. This is deadly both to receive federal funding, as well as to attract new students.

Why Retention Matters for Students

Students may think transferring colleges is not that big of a deal, but it can be very detrimental to a student progressing. Not only does a transfer cost time and money, it also makes it more difficult for students to graduate on time or at all.

Only 13% of students are able to graduate in six years after transferring to another institution. The biggest blocker for transfer students is not being able to transfer credits. Only 32% of transfer students are able to keep all of their credits, meaning students will most likely have to retake classes to earn credits they have already earned before.

Retention Solutions

This is a problem that many colleges are making an effort to combat, for the sake of their own numbers as well as for their students. In the past the process of helping an at-risk student was inefficient and cumbersome. Counselor or advisers generally did not know there was a problem unless the student brought it up themselves. Today several colleges are using the help of data-mining to find at-risk students and help them overcome setbacks before they are forced to drop out.

For example, at Middle Tennessee University, 78% of students who received an A in history go on to graduate, while only 60% of students who receive a C do. This effective use of big data allows them to flag certain student groups who need a little extra help or coaching.

Schools with the Highest Retention Rates

Below is a list of the top 20 colleges with the best freshman retention rates. What are these colleges doing right that other schools could emulate?

A caveat - high freshman retention rates could also just mean the school only accepts students who are going to do well in the first place, and are unwilling to take a chance on a student who may need some extra help.

Note that these colleges are listed according to their freshmen retention rate and are not ranked in order of quality.

The 20 Colleges with the Best Freshman Retention Rates
The 20 Colleges with the Best Freshman Retention Rates