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Despite pandemic, CU shows highest retention rate in 29 years

September 17, 2020

Clarion University is seeing record high numbers in the retention of students this fall. 

Data shows that bachelor’s degree-seeking students who began as freshmen in fall 2019 have returned for the second year of their programs at a rate of 77 percent, the highest rate in 29 years. 

The retention rate for second-to-third year students is 69.5 percent, the highest rate recorded since Clarion began recording retention data in 1990. “I can’t say enough how proud I am of our students faculty and staff, they all contribute every day and it’s making a difference in the lives of our students,” President Dale-Elizabeth Pehrsson, Ph.D. said.

Student retention is a focus for Clarion University. 

“Everyone on campus understands why retention is important.  They have all become a part of the informal university-wide retention team,” Provost Pamela Gent, Ph.D. said. “It is mission-critical for us to help move students closer to their dreams and toward transforming their lives.” 

Formal retention committees also have been formed in academic departments across campus.

According to Gent, the university has employed specific efforts to retain students including implementing success coaches and developing inquiry seminars.

With a decline nationwide in the population of students graduating from high school, it has become increasingly important to maintain the students who enroll at Clarion. Essential to students’ return from year to year is a successful transition from high school to the academic, cultural and social life that Clarion University offers.

Easing that transition is the mission of the Center for Student Outreach and Success Coaching where opportunities and experiences are designed to build the skills, knowledge and values necessary to achieve academic, personal and professional awareness. Success coaches are available to counsel students who seek to improve skills in various facets of higher education.

Another focus for the university has been on increased engagement with students outside of the academic space. The university also implemented living-learning communities, turned to attendance reporting, focused on first-year teaching and scheduling as well as overall mental health of students.

“We also have a great deal of outreach happening through the Center for Wellness and many opportunities for students to engage in campus life.  We are highly committed to the social and emotional growth and development of our students and keeping them safe and healthy.  By providing a high quality of life on and around campus, our students are free to engage fully in their academic success,” said Vice President for Student Affairs Susanne Fenske, Ph.D.

According to Vice President of Enrollment Management David Dollins, another focus has been on reducing overall costs for students through institutional aid recognizing academic achievement and financial need, as well as faculty actively finding and using open educational resources in lieu of using costly textbooks.

“We have invested significantly in our students through merit and need-based awards. In helping keep Clarion affordable, we have helped reduce one of the main stressors in continuing on to a degree, cost,” said Dollins.

Additionally, Dollins noted, that we have seen the first back-to-back freshmen class increase in 13 years, and that this is the third year in a row that incoming freshmen students have brought in an average GPA of 3.4 or higher. In fact, more than 66 percent of incoming freshmen ranked in the top half of their high school class. The support provided by the university, coupled with the strong academic preparation our students bring, has all helped to increase overall success.

Last Updated 1/11/21