University improves retention numbers

As part of the accreditation process, the University looks for ways to improve retention of students.

“We have a number of efforts that have been in place and some new efforts that are in the developmental stages,” said Dr. Richard McCallum, vice president for academic affairs.

McCallum said last year Missouri Southern completed a self study for the first year experience for the retention of first-year students to the second year called the Foundations of Excellence.

“We are looking at a series of recommendations and opportunities for us to make modifications to our first-year experience curriculum and to improve our ability to retain students from that first year to the second year,” he said.

McCallum said the University has a variety of efforts, some new efforts by the departments, which are helping to enhance student retention.

“We have a campus-wide retention committee that is working on retention strategies and retention efforts to improve our ability to stay connected with students and retain them through to graduation,” he said.

McCallum said the first-year experience efforts are linked to the accreditation process.

“We have declared our first-year experience in this special emphasis for our self study,” he said.

University President Julio León said without retention, students don’t have success.

“In order to retain students, you have to make available to them all sorts of support and help,” he said. “It’s helping, in my opinion, raise general awareness on the part of faculty and staff of the importance of making sure that we keep track of every student who comes here so that they can be on their path to success. We don’t want to lose anybody through the cracks.”

McCallum said retention of students plays a role at Southern.

“After they have established a track record with us, they have gone through the admissions procedures, they’ve been connected with an adviser and they have taken courses and established a transcript, I think that it’s just absolutely important that we be able to help them be successful and we support their retention efforts,” he said.

Because there are situations that are out of the University’s control, León said it is difficult to keep retention up.

“Sometimes we cannot control, obviously, the fact that somebody’s family will have to move to somewhere else because they have found a job and they have to move or because there are financial problems,” he said, “or because they are some family problems that would force somebody to drop out of school for awhile.”

Dr. Delores Honey, assistant vice president for assessment and institutional research, said there is not one right answer for students.

“That’s whey we try to offer a wide variety of services and make the connection with every student who is willing so that we know their needs and can try to address them,” she said.

Honey said the retention rates from the fall to spring semesters have averaged 86 percent in the last 10 years. She also said from the fall semester to fall semester have averaged 65 percent in the last 10 years.

“Graduation rates average 32 percent for the cohorts after six years,” she said.

León said every student who comes to Southern has a goal in mind.

“There’s something we want to achieve,” he said. “The extent of which they leave this institution after having achieved that is good for the students; that is good for Missouri Southern.”