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Retaining Students One By One

Student Success Assessment, Evaluation, and Research
Deborah Cady Melzer Allison Farrell

Strengthening first-year to sophomore retention is something all colleges aspire to do. However, the challenges of understanding which initiatives to employ can seem overwhelming. What works?  This session will show participants how Le Moyne College used institutional mission and the value of holistic education to transform its retention practices and increase its retention in 3 years by more than 5%.

What works?  Rather, what works for your students?  This session will offer a perspective on the efforts of Le Moyne College to recast its retention initiatives during a period of dramatic change on the campus. The College’s first task was to create a culture that embraced the idea that retention is ongoing and a campus-wide responsibility. As efforts took shape, the College decided to move beyond numbers alone and commit to improve retention and engagement among its most vulnerable students through the lens of cura personalis – considering the entire student, their abilities, talents, uniqueness and frailties.   The presenters will reflect on how they threw away often misleading generalizations about why students leave and why they stay.  In doing so, they were able to accurately view their unique student culture and develop initiatives most helpful to their students.  The presenters will also offer examples of the challenges they have faced and their accomplishments – and what they have learned in the process. 

The Problem

In 2010, the first-year to sophomore retention rate at Le Moyne College dipped to 81.9%, sizably lower than the college's 10-year average of 84.8%. This was especially problematic because the enrollment shift came as a surprise to college officials and the reasons of which were unknown, at least initially. This dip sparked an immediate reaction from the College and quickly changes were made to respond to this challenge. This presentation will chronicle how campus-wide initiatives and the appointment of a retention point person helped Le Moyne to increase the retention by nearly 6% over the next 3 years.

Learning Outcomes

By participating in this session, attendees will:

  • understand how one institution carefully viewed its mission as a motivator to analyze its retention challenges and develop appropriate solutions;
  • consider efforts that can foster “good” retention; and
  • consider ways to build a productive campus-wide conversation around retention.
Course Length
60 minutes
Course Type
On Demand