Retention rates at Penn low, but still rising

The new semester has kicked off and there seems to be a few less familiar faces around campus.

Michael Edwards, William Penn’s Institutional Researcher, says that the fall term is usually bigger in terms of student enrollment and that they are typically used when calculating student retention. From Fall 2015 to Fall 2016, the percent of students seeking a degree while enrolled in at least one credit per semester that remained at the university was 64%.

According to U.S News, a university with a rate around 85% is a “good sign”. Based on the numbers, William Penn falls substantially below the line for what is considered a solid rate of retention.

A big reason retention is important is because it indicates generally how happy students are with their experience at the school. Things like sports, majors available, classes being offered and financial aid are a few reasons students decide to leave a college or university. When students are in the process of choosing a university to attend while pursuing higher education, they often look to rates of retention to get a vague idea on how their experience at the school may be.

Edwards said that between the Spring 2016 and Spring 2017 semesters, 512 out of 705 students remained at William Penn (excluding figures for those who graduated). This is 72.6% of students. These numbers are substantially better than the Fall figures, which indicates improvement in student retention. However, it still falls below the mark of 85%.

Jennifer Wilson, William Penn’s Marketing Director, says the push that Penn is currently having towards retention comes mainly in the form of making students feel at home here.

Wilson wants William Penn to be noticed as a brand, not merely as a school that just offers programs. “We want people to say they graduated from William Penn University,” said Wilson.

Diversity is what has always driven William Penn University, so it very important to the institution that diversity remains at the heart of Penn. Finding ways to make William Penn feel like home to those from big cities, far away countries or just a few miles away is the key to retaining students and the diversity that makes Penn what it is.

A huge push has been made to connect the students of Penn recently, especially from the Residence Life department. “Resident Assistants and Community Events Coordinators work hard to plan, organize, and hold events that appeal to a wide variety of students,” says Dianne Burns, co-director of Residence Life.

By bringing students together outside of the classrooms and playing fields, lasting relationships may be formed that could make many students stay through graduation.

Wilson, along with the Marketing Department, are currently in the process of “reintroducing” Penn’s brand, a process they believe will help build-up retention as well. Wilson says, “By making students feel more at home, as well as revamping what ‘William Penn’ means to the students who attend, we really think that more people would choose to stay here throughout their educational career until they graduate.”   

Although the retention rate for William Penn falls below the desired mark, progress is being made in the right direction. Through new marketing techniques, an increase in campus activities and an emphasis on making all students feel at home, William Penn is looking to up the retention numbers and make Penn even better.

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