Jan 20, 2011

Retention Rates at Four-Year Private Colleges Fall to Lowest Levels Yet

According to a study published today by ACT, Inc., freshman retention rates at four-year private colleges have fallen to the lowest levels since the testing service began conducting surveys of colleges and universities 27 years ago.

And for the first time, retention rates at private colleges (72 percent) fell behind those at four-year public institutions (74 percent), possibly reflecting continuing strains in the economy and the ability of families to afford higher tuition.

“Students are better able to afford to return to public colleges than to private schools due to their lower costs,” said Wes Habley, ACT’s principal associate, who has been conducting analyses of retention data for the organization since 1985.

Overall college retention rates, or the percentage of first-year, full time students who return to the same institution for a second year, remained relatively stable. Two-thirds (67 percent) of students at two- and four-year colleges returned for their sophomore year, as compared to 68 percent in 2005 and 66 percent last year. Although improving, retention at two-year colleges (56 percent) still lags behind that of four-year institutions.

Locally, retention rates at four-year colleges and universities largely remain above national averages. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, the University of Virginia (97 percent), Georgetown (96 percent), Johns Hopkins (96 percent), and the College of William & Mary (95 percent) had the highest percentage of students who began their studies in 2008 return in 2009.

The University of Maryland (93 percent), the University of Richmond (92 percent), James Madison University (92 percent), St. Mary's College of Maryland (91 percent), George Washington (91 percent), and American (90 percent) also posted far better than average retention rates.

In its recent report titled, What Works in Student Retention, ACT suggests that colleges are increasing the use of “learning assistance measures” (remedial courses, study groups, or tutoring) to help students stay in school. According to ACT, these strategies have become more popular than academic advising and first-year transition programs in efforts to improve retention.

“Unfortunately, the themes of this periodic study haven’t changed much since 1980,” remarked Habley. “Many students still enter college unprepared to succeed, and retention and completion rates haven’t changed a lot over the years.”

More information on the ACT survey of colleges may be found on the ACT website.

No comments:

Post a Comment