Retention rates, which calculate the percentage of students who continue from their first-year to sophomore year, are generally perceived as a measure of student happiness and success, as well as a strong barometer for an institution’s inevitable graduation rate.
In a new report, the Chronicle of Higher Education highlights high retention rates among institutions that say “yes” more often than “no” to well-prepared students in the admission process. Centre College finished fourth on the list, which includes a range of highly regarded private colleges and universities across the country.
The Chronicle’s specific focus was on those institutions that accept 50 percent or more of their applicants, a cohort that includes well-known places ranging from Rhodes, Gonzaga, St. Olaf and DePauw, to Spelman, Syracuse and SMU.
Centre’s high retention rate (93.3 percent) came in just behind Wheaton College in Illinois (95.4), Kettering (95.2) and Rose-Hulman (93.9).
These percentages stand out against the backdrop of an unfortunate reality.
“In many cases,” U.S. News & World Report suggests, “1 in 3 first-year students or more won’t make it back for sophomore year.” In fact, recent data from the National Center for Education Statistics lists the current retention rate for private open enrollment institutions at 64 percent.
According to President John Roush, Centre has long sought to be a place that emphasizes “high achievement and high opportunity,” welcoming talented students from a diversity of backgrounds.
“We’re a top-50 national liberal arts college where strong, good and high-achieving students can not only get in but also succeed at exceptionally high rates,” Roush said.
As an example, Centre’s current cohort of students by class year are retaining at 89 percent for sophomores and 87 percent for both juniors and seniors.
It’s this kind of success, adds Dean of Admission Bob Nesmith, that earned Centre a prominent place in the influential book “Colleges That Change Lives” by former New York Times education editor Loren Pope that profiles 40 unique institutions.
Over the past half-decade, for which data has been collected, Centre graduates have averaged a 95 percent placement rate for employment or advanced study within 10 months of graduation. At the same time, graduation rates have been in the mid-80 percent range.
The full report, based on the Chronicle’s analysis of data from the U.S. Department of Education, is available here.
by Michael Strysick
February 8, 2019