The university’s spring retention rate is slightly higher than last year’s rate, an upward trend that has been evident in recent years.
The total number of students reduced from 4,461 to 4,168. The 93.4 percent retention rate, compared to last year’s 92.3 percent rate, is an upward trend that can be attributed to several factors, said Bart Herridge, director of student retention and services.
“We’re bring in freshman classes that are more likely to retain in general,” Herridge said.
“They’re better fits for the university.”
Tamara Long, director of admissions, said the university isn’t focusing on increasing the size of the incoming freshman but of selectivity.
Herridge said the change to block tuition has made a significant difference in the affordability of the university and has had a positive influence on retention rates.
Though this spring’s rates are promising, they don’t necessarily indicate the rate of students who will return next fall.
“It’s a great number, but there’s a lot of work to do,” Herridge said.
However, predictions for next fall’s retention rates are looking consistent with what has been seen in previous years.
As part of ACU’s 21st Century Vision made in 2007, a goal was made to obtain a retention rate of 80 percent. Last year’s rate was 79.4 percent, but that doesn’t mean the university will achieve that number next fall, Herridge said.
“Every group is different. We’re not necessarily assuming we’ll get to 80 percent this year, but that’s ultimately our long term goal.”
Herridge said one important way his office works to achieve this goal is by helping students build community.
“We try to find ways to build community so that people here feel plugged in with other people, that they feel like this is a place for them and that they fit,” Herridge said. “The retention is going to follow, but our focus is on community.”
The university has encountered a new trend because of the switch to block tuition. Students are entering ACU with college credit because of Advanced Placement and dual credit classes. These hours combined with the switch to block tuition is causing a new phenomenon. Herridge said they’re seeing a large number of students with senior hours that aren’t necessarily graduating.
“One of the interesting things we’re trying to figure out is we’re not exactly sure how many [seniors] are actually not going to be here next year,” Herridge said. “We’re trying to forecast with almost nothing to go on in terms of the history of understanding on how that enrollment flow is actually moving through the university.”