Colleges around the nation revel in their ability to retain freshmen at phenomenal rates. Yale University claims the highest retention rate in the nation at 99 percent with Stanford and Princeton close behind.
In comparison, for two consecutive years Augustana has retained 83 percent of freshmen.
When compared to the Ivy League schools previously mentioned, Augustana’s retention rate may seem trivial, but upon further examination the rate raises reasons to celebrate and speculate.
This year marks the fourth in a row that Augustana’s freshman retention rate has been over 80 percent, and the fifth year in a row it has exceeded the national average. Just five years ago Augustana’s retention rate was in the high 70s.
Vice President of admissions Nancy Davidson said although the rate did not increase from last year, it is still an accomplishment to have continued to set a high standard.
“Augustana wants to enroll freshmen, but more importantly Augustana strives to enroll graduates,” Davidson said.
With competing schools reporting significantly higher retention rates, it is hard not to question Augustana’s stagnant rate.
Joni Krueger, registrar, said retention is a very complicated subject, but one specific aspect of student life makes freshmen want to return: the feeling of acceptance. Krueger says that if freshmen can get involved in at least one activity in which they truly feel comfortable and welcome, they will likely become returning sophomores.
In order to create an accepting environment, Augustana has developed a peer mentoring program this fall.
Junior Jesse Fonkert said Augustana makes supporting its students a priority. “I believe that Augie does an above average job of offering support to students who are struggling and those who have a difficult time making friends,” he said.
In addition to offering support, Fonkert said Augustana holds its students to high academic standards, which likely impacts the retention rate. “A majority of the 17 percent that transfer out are not up to the task to maintaining an acceptable GPA or the program that they need is not offered here,” he said.
Senior Alyssa Weber who works with first year programing at Augie agrees with Fonkert. “Augie is a very tough college and I think that that freaks a lot of students out because they have come to expect very high standards of themselves academically and come here and realize that those goals need to be re-evaluated. This is just my theory,” she said. “But the college is constantly running statistics on why people are leaving and how we could increase our numbers.”
Davidson said an increased retention rate is a product of not only the admissions staff, but of the whole campus. Every single student, professor, staff member and administrator has a job to do when it comes to retention rate.