Students who leave Knox after three years do so primarily for academic reasons, new research by Associate Dean Lori Haslem reveals. The school’s retention rate for first-year students, however, remains high.
Haslem took data from 2002 to 2008 and found that a total of only 57 students had left after completing three years. These students who left had a variety of different majors and left for many different reasons, but the most common reason was academics.
“There is nothing really that sticks out to me there,” Haslem said.
Overall, the retention rate of the school is high, wavering around 90 percent. That means that for a 300-student class, around 30 will not return. This is significantly higher than other liberal arts colleges, who have an average of an 80 percent retention rate, but it is only the students who re-enroll after their first year who are included in this number.
“When you hear the words ‘retention rate,’ it’s always about the first year….Once a student returns for a second year, then their likelihood of graduating increases,” Senior Director for Institutional Research and Reporting Charles Clark said.
Haslem has been working to make sure that the numbers are not the only things being tracked. The college is looking at why people are leaving as well.
“When I came into the office in 2010, I realized no one was really keeping track of why students left,” she said.
She, along with Dean of Students Debbie Southern and the Admission, Retention and Placement Committee, came up with a checklist system that includes financial, personal, academic and a few other reasons to keep track of students’ motivations for leaving.
This system still does not perfectly track why people are leaving. Some students may leave for more than one reason or not feel comfortable sharing their reasons, which can cause the data to be incomplete.
Also, this information has only been tracked since spring 2010, which makes it difficult to find any long-term trends. So far, the students who have decided to leave Knox had quite varied reasons for doing so.
“By and large, ‘financial’ is not one of the top reasons students have reported leaving,” Haslem said.
Now that the college plans to add 200 students over the next four years to deal with financial problems, retention is being watched even more closely. Software is even being used now to better judge whether a student is likely to transfer.
“It gives us an even more heightened sense of retention. We want to be sure that we’re making every effort on retention, just like they’re making efforts on the admission side,” Haslem said.