Wright State University’s overall retention rate is seven-to-ten points lower than peer-level schools, according to Dr. Seth Gordon, director of Undergraduate Retention.
According to Dr. Gordon, Northern Kentucky University (NKU) is one of the most similar schools to WSU. NKU has a 69 percent first-to-second-year retention and WSU is at 62 percent.
What are we going to do better?
“As much as we talk about being a research university, which is a real focus of the faculty and it’s important because that adds immense quality in a teacher, but that’s not why people are coming here,” said Gordon.
89-90 percent of the revenue WSU receives is from teaching.
“There is going to be a demographic shift,” said Gordon. “More people are graduating high school and less people are prepared for college-level work. Wright State has been through, to put it lightly, a rough few years, and our reputation is tarnished.”
Associate Director of Undergraduate Retention Amanda Watkins is checking in on all of the progress reports of first-time, first-year, on-campus students. These students are being targeted to figure out if they are going to class and progressing well through their classes.
The program is discovering that with simple intervention, students can get back on the right track. If a student isn’t doing well, the retention office’s system will generate an email from the faculty that will warn the student about their progress.
“We want to mitigate the impact of being in college if they are not going to finish. The people that struggle to pay back their student loans are the people who don’t finish,” said Gordon.
Education is one of the lowest paying sectors, therefore supporting the people doing work that they’re underpaid to do tends to slip under the radar which causes a ripple effect.
“We want people to be able to pursue their degrees with the resources and the timeline they have,” said Gordon. “Wright State is a value, we do something exceptional for the price but we still have to do that and we’re not doing it well if only 60 percent of the people that come here make it to their second year,” said Gordon.
There is a risk when pursuing college.
“You’re borrowing money now in hopes that it’ll pay off in the future. If you don’t finish and get the degree, that risk changes,” said Gordon. “We want to make sure everyone willing to take that risk has the help they need to be successful.”
There will be a team of retention specialists consisting of four people. These specialists are a combined initiative of advisor and enrollment services manager and advocate. Their purpose is to give options to the student that they might not have thought of.
“It’s not just about retention, it’s about getting people through the funnel faster so they don’t have to borrow as much money and they can go on with their lives. If they’re not making good decisions, we can catch it sooner,” said Gordon.
Katie Deedrick was the director of Student Support Services and recently retired after 40 years. Students relied on Deedrick to help overcome personal roadblocks so they could be successful.
Destinee Biesmeyer of Student Advocacy and Wellness will collaborate with the Office of Undergraduate Retention in replacing Deedrick.
These two positions in Student Advocacy and Wellness will help with non-academics while Undergraduate Retention is for when a student is not doing well in classes, therefore these offices will go hand-in-hand.
“The distance between my car is broken and I can’t get to class, and I have academic issues that are very close,” said Gordon. “Let’s make it to where the people that are working to fix those problems can talk to one another to figure out what works and if we should coordinate together.”
The addition will take time.
“Like many things in higher ed, we’re building a plane while we’re flying it. We won’t always get it right but we’re here to try our best,” said Gordon.