Surveys Hint at Low Retention Rate at Wilson

Byline: Liz Hart & Molly Yerger

Posted: June 11, 2010

It is a warm sunny day in May and a group of people gather out on the campus green for graduation day at Wilson. In many ways, this scene appears like a graduation at any college: proud parents pose with their daughters, and professors look on with satisfaction at the accomplishments of their graduates.

This graduation is distinct though, because there are only 35 graduates and this class began with 107 students.

Small institutions commonly see the number of students in a class decrease over the four years it takes to obtain a degree. But at Wilson these numbers seem to be lower when compared to other schools. The number of students of the freshman class has dropped significantly in the past couple of months.

Retention Rate at Wilson

Last year there was a study done on America's best colleges and a poll was taken from seventy colleges. Wilson was rated as the seventeenth best college. Wilson's freshman retention rate was 25 percent. This number may be small but it is proven that most students' currently seeking bachelor's degrees have attended more than one learning institution.

There are many factors that cause a low retention rate for colleges. Research shows that Wilson has a dramatically lower retention rate when compared to other not-for-profit, women's colleges in Pennsylvania. The graph shows the results of research done by The Education Trust.

These results show that, when compared to other not-for-profit women's colleges in Pennsylvania, Wilson has the lowest retention rate.

Reasons for Low Retention on Campus

According to an all campus survey performed on transfer rates, conducted on Sun, May 2 until Wed, May 10, there were 86 respondents who suggested that "Wilson lacks diversity which is evident in the attitudes of many students and some faculty and staff members. The tuition isn't affordable to many families and Wilson doesn't offer enough financial aid to help reduce cost." This survey was open to all current students and staff at Wilson. The results of this survey show that 78 percent of survey takers are aware of the high transfer rate at Wilson. The results also show that 27 percent of survey takers are either transferring or considering transferring within their college careers.

The results of the survey list the top five reasons of transfer as: being unprepared for college, cost of education, challenging academics, change in major, and/or Wilson did not meet the student's expectations. One student, Monica Lyons ‘13, states that "The main reason I may have to transfer from Wilson is the cost. I think Wilson should offer more aid for students to make up for the rising costs of tuition." Some students feel that they are unprepared in their academics; this can be attested to the recent No Child Left Behind Act. This bill lets a child that is failing a class go up a grade even if they do not have the credit to match their grade standing.

Combating Low Retention Rate

To combat this low retention rate, Mary Ann Naso, Vice President for Enrollment, and Prof. Michael Cornelius, Department Chair of English and Mass Communications, have attended conferences in recent years, which has caused the number of incoming freshman to increase. This year's freshman class was the largest class to enter Wilson in several years.

Naso made a statement about the retention rates: "We [the retention committee] meet every three weeks to examine issues relating to retention and attrition to determine what we should implement here. Many of the things that are being done at other colleges are already in place here. Other "Best Practices" such as a year-long program for first-year students and personal financial management for students are under discussion now"
Students who are worried about high academics should consider attending a community college before attending Wilson. One possibility to aid in a solution to this problem is, in the future, hold a discussion involving incoming students and current students or alumnae to discuss their specific major.

Most high schools offer seniors the option to take courses at their local community colleges for college credit. This could help future students determine if they are ready for a four year school. If a student is having doubts if the credits will transfer into Wilson, then they should call and ask the admissions office if their credits will transfer. If they do not and the student is seriously considering Wilson, a different college may need to be chosen. Although this may be a tough decision to make when choosing a college, Wilson has always been interested in helping students with their academics, as stated by Naso "If something is important to you it is important to Wilson".

Last Updated: October 14, 2011

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