Eighty-three percent of Knox students who entered the college in 2014 returned for their sophomore years. This retention rate is down from the year prior, when 88 percent of freshmen entering in 2013 returned as sophomores.
Associate Dean of the College Lori Schroeder has been working with the Admission, Retention and Placement Committee to develop retention initiatives as part of the Knox 2018 Strategic Plan.
Part of her position at the college involves looking into why some Knox students don’t return to campus.
“I think that it’s not academic as often as you might think it is,” Schroeder said. “It’s frequently a combination of financial pressures and I would say medical, counseling and mental health issues are the ones that maybe come up most frequently.”
Schroeder noted that the retention statistics include students who are taking a leave of absence from the college, so some of the 17 percent of students who did not return to Knox this year as sophomores may be coming back to campus at a later point.
The college’s comprehensive retention plan is still being finalized, but will focus on topics ranging from preparing students for Knox’s academics, helping them to better understand their financial aid package and fostering a community that promotes a sense of belonging for all students.
“I would call it a more holistic approach that the college has been using toward retention,” Chief Institutional Research Officer Charles Clark said. Clark is also a part of the Admission, Retention and Placement Committee.
One of the new initiatives was the creation of a Summer Bridge Program this fall. The program aims to help freshmen students make the transition to college life from high school.
According to Knox’s website, 32 students participated in the program.
The college also lowered the GPA requirements necessary for freshmen and sophomores to maintain good academic standing last fall.
Schroeder said she has not seen evidence that would indicate a correlation between the lower retention rate and the student activism in recent years.
“I actually think that prospective students are attracted to Knox by the fact that this is a place where we deal with tough issues and we don’t just talk about things and gloss them over,” Dean of Admission Paul Steenis said.
While the college has introduced new initiatives to focus on retaining students from their freshman to sophomore year, Schroeder noted that Knox is even more so concerned with the college’s completion rate.
The completion rate looks at how many students graduate from college in five years or less.
The five-year graduation rate at Knox is 79 percent, whereas the national rate is 62 percent, according to Clark.
“As far as the graduation rates for Knox, we’re on pretty solid footing compared to nationally and to other non-profit privates, so we do very well with that,” Clark said.
Schroeder said that the Admission, Retention and Placement Committee will have more information on upcoming retention initiatives in the next few weeks.