The freshmen class is expecting a lower-than-normal retention rate entering the spring semester.
“We are preparing for a dip in retention as we did going into this year,” Tamara Long, vice president for enrollment and student life, said. “I think the financial implications for some families along with the unknowns are going to become a realization soon.”
Although the university expecting a drop in retention, hopes are still high for students to return.
“Currently 88% of freshmen are registered for spring, we hope to see that number hit 90% by January,” Long said. “There are numerous reasons a freshman is delayed in enrolling. Ninety-four percent of sophomores are registered to return. ”
The university typically sees a 90-92% retention rate for the first semester freshman class.
Rebekah Reyes, director for orientation, student services, and financial counseling, said that the university’s desire is to help and retain every student they can.
“We’re hoping to hang onto everybody that we possibly can,” Reyes said. “It’s always our desire that we want you here. We are willing to do whatever we can to help you with that.”
Nonetheless, Long said she understand that there are different elements students have to consider this year.
She said that she believes students are left with different known and unknown factors that not only determine if they go to school but produce different levels of stress and anxiety students may not have had in previous years.
“I think the anxiety and insecurity some students felt this semester was significant,” Long said. “With the landscape across the country being what it is, I don’t think those anxieties are going to get any better. People handle stress in different ways.”
Long said she believes the main contributor to a dip in student retention would be the COVID-19 pandemic as it has made students consider if, when, and where they go to school.
“We’ve helped students transfer out mid-semester because of the stress of getting sick or possibly getting a family member sick,” Long said. “There’s a different kind of stress students have this year that will influence retention this year.”
However, Long said there will be some announcements and changes made in order to help students get better connected and feel more normal next semester.
These include expanding chapel experiences as well as a concert in April that Long said will feature a “very well-liked artist.”
“By making these announcements we add more reasons to come back outside of just a great education,” Long said.