This year’s fall-to-spring retention rate is the highest it’s been in 20 years.
“We’re really encouraged by putting up a significant record over any previous year that we’ve had,” said Bart Herridge, director of student retention and services. “We’ve gone back 20 years, and we can’t find one close to this.”
The fall-to-spring retention rate measures the amount of freshmen who return for the spring semester and is 94.3 percent as compared to last year’s 91.9 percent.
“We’re very, very excited to post that kind of number,” Herridge said. “It exceeded everybody’s expectations in terms of what we’re trying to do from fall to spring.”
There has also been an increase in the sophomore, junior and senior retention rate for the semester.
“All of our rates are on the rise,” Herridge said.
Freshman enrollment from last semester is up to 723 from 693 last spring, sophomore enrollment is at 833 from 809, junior enrollment is at 771 from 713, and senior enrollment is up to 1086 from 1006.
Overall, total enrollment is 4,120, down from 4,168, last spring, a common pattern from year to year.
Despite the record-breaking rate, Herridge said a decrease in the fall-to-fall rate is still possible.
“Spring is not always predictive of fall,” he said. “In other words, our real goal is to have strong fall-to-fall – freshman-to-sophomore – retention. A really good spring doesn’t always mean a good fall, so there’s a lot of work left to do.”
Many reasons explain why students don’t return to ACU.
“A lot of it has to do with the make-up of each freshman class; this year’s freshmen are different than last year’s freshmen, and every cohort is a little bit different,” Herridge said.
But Herridge and his team try to combat that by providing programs and resources for students to plug into.
“That’s kind of the baseline you’re working from, and from there you just try to understand which students are likely to leave and start trying to do interventions with that group and see if you can figure out what it is that’s going to help them to be here and be successful,” he said.
Herridge said some of the credit goes to the Office of Admissions.
“I would give tons of credit to the folks in admissions in terms of admitting a pool of students,” he said. “We’ve just come a long way in the last 10 years in terms of admitting groups of students that are really strong fits here both academically and culturally and socially.”
Tamara Long, director of admissions, said the admissions office takes a lot into consideration when looking for students.
“For years, ACU and many other colleges placed all their hope and belief in a student’s ability to take the ACT and SAT,” Long said. “There is more significant research at large, and now seen in five years of data from ACU, showing that, in fact, high school performance is a far better indicator of college success. With the help of analytical modeling, ACU is able to admit only the students we believe have the potential to be successful.”
The recruiting process starts as soon as possible, but they keep in mind that ACU is not the right place for everyone.
“We do every and anything you can think of to get the attention of 15- to 18-year-olds,” Long said. “The complicated part is identifying the student we want at ACU and actively recruiting them to attend ACU.”
So far, their methods have been successful.
“I think ACU is at an exciting time in history.” Long said. “We are attracting highly talented young men and women who could go to college anywhere but want to be a part of the intellectual transformation happening here at ACU.”