Enrollment drop means a new focus

Dana Rader

The university has projected a 2 to 3 percent drop in enrollment for the fall semester and will focus on retention in hopes for improvement.

“At Kent State, we believe that enrollment drives everything, and retention drives enrollment,” said Chuck Rickard, associate vice president for enrollment services.

Rickard said the number of retained students builds a solid foundation for future enrollment growth.

He said retention is also important at Kent State because Ohio is a “no growth market” for high school seniors, meaning that fewer students are graduating in the state of Ohio.

“We need to retain the students we are bringing to the university because the student recruitment market is becoming much more competitive,” Rickard said.

The university has been concentrating heavily on retention for the past two or three years. Rickard said that encouraging student and faculty engagement is one way the university hopes to improve enrollment and retention.

“If students feel connected, they do better academically,” Rickard said. “So it’s really important that we as a (college) community are engaged.”

Retention is based on the percentage of first-time freshmen who return their sophomore year.

Wayne Schneider, director of institutional research, said this rate has been teetering between 71 and 72 percent for the last two years.

Schneider said the normal predictors, such as high school grade point average and ACT scores, are no longer considered accurate determinants of which students are more likely to stay at Kent.

“Something happens when they get to Kent and experience it,” he said.

The university has developed programs such as living and learning communities, the Placement, Advising and Scheduling System and the common reading program, aimed at improving the first-year experience, which, in turn, should improve retention rates.

“We have all the pieces at Kent, we just need to use them better,” Schneider said.

The official data for enrollment and retention will be available after the official statistics day, which is on the 15th day of each semester.

He said that plans are already underway for the upcoming fall and spring semester campaigns.

Schneider said that the university suffers from a loss of revenue from tuition and subsidy, which is money from the state government, when retention and enrollment rates are low.

However, he said the greater loss is in the student.

“When we lose a student we’ve lost the chance to make a difference in somebody’s life.”

Contact academic affairs reporter Dana Rader at [email protected].