University seeing growth in retention rate

February 25, 2021
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The COVID-19 pandemic has created many challenges for college-aged students, but recent data shows Fitchburg State University is having success keeping students on track. The number of students who started in fall 2019 and returned the following year actually rose, despite the pandemic.

That statistic, referred to as the retention rate, rose by 3% from fall 2019 to fall 2020.

Fitchburg State President Richard S. Lapidus said retention rates are an important metric for higher education institutions, because students who remain at the university from their first to their second year are more likely to graduate than students who take a break in their studies after their first year.

“We want to graduate as many students as possible, because a college degree will change the lives of our students in many ways, including social mobility,” Lapidus said.

The university’s retention rates increased over 3%, with 77.6% of first-year, full-time students returning for a second year last fall. This is the highest retention rate increase among all of the state colleges and universities in Massachusetts.

Fitchburg State Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs Alberto Cardelle said the success can be attributed to institutional measures instituted just over three years ago. These include a focus on peer mentors, peer tutors, a first-year seminar for incoming students, faculty mentoring for underrepresented groups, and improved support for first-year courses. These initiatives, backed by efforts by the university’s Student Development and Housing and Residential Services offices, have helped to promote a sense of belonging among students.

The university’s retention efforts have “lifted all boats,” Cardelle said, benefiting more than one or two student demographic groups. Rather, there has been an overall positive shift among retention of all students, including males, females, and underrepresented groups.

“We obviously have work to do, but none of our populations are being left behind in our retention pushes,” Cardelle said.

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