The Spring Tenth-Day Enrollment numbers show a promising trend in freshmen retention rates. For the first time since 2007, the fall-to-spring freshman retention rate was 90 percent, a two percent improvement over last year. The climb was fueled primarily by a 4 percent improvement in retention among both black and LatinX students. Drilling down even further, retention rates for students enrolled in the CHANCE program improved by 6 percent.
First year retention is considered an important metric, as students who persist through their first full year of college are far more likely to earn a diploma.
“It is very hard to move retention rates, so this is gratifying,” said Provost Beth Ingram. “The goal we are working toward is to see this kind of improvement in August, but you can’t retain students in the fall if you don’t retain them in the spring, so this is exciting news.”
Ingram attributed the progress to changes made as part of the enactment of the university’s Strategic Enrollment Management Plan, which was launched last January.
“The entire university should be proud of this accomplishment,” she said. “It is a reflection of collaborative efforts across the university to help our students be successful and realize their goals.”
According to Vice Provost for Undergraduate Academic Affairs Omar Ghrayeb, who is helping to lead that process, one notable change has been using an integrated approach to student services including academic advising, CHANCE, financial aid, University Honors, resource centers, and other critical student services.
“We have adopted a case management approach for our interactions with students,” Ghrayeb said. “We are now using specialized software to ensure that anyone in any area that interacts with a student has a complete picture of the student’s challenges and needs. It allows us to collaborate more effectively than ever to help students overcome obstacles. “
Another important improvement, he said, has been the addition of more academic advisors, bringing the student-to-advisor ratio to about 300 to 1, which is in line with national best practices. That has allowed advisors to interact with students more frequently, to identify and resolve issues in a more timely fashion and to work with them on longer-term plans.
Overall, the Tenth-Day Enrollment report showed a year-to-year decline of about 3.7 percent, which was expected based upon fall enrollment decline of 3.3 percent.
“Any change in the fall is more or less mirrored in the spring, and that is what we see here,” said Sol Jensen, NIU Vice President for Enrollment Management, Marketing and Communications. “The improved retention is very exciting because, like last fall’s 2 percent growth in freshman students, it signals that the changes being made across campus as part of the Strategic Enrollment Plan are starting to work. We are on the right path.”