Retention rates drop

Posted Wednesday, February 11, 2009 - 5:09pm

Retention rates at the College of Eastern Utah dropped almost eight percent in the last five years, according to the college's Institutional Research and ACT Institutional Data File from 2004-08.

In the 2004-05 academic year, 50.8 percent of CEU's freshmen returned for their sophomore year. The national average at that time was 50.9 percent.

By 2008-09, 42.6 percent of CEU freshmen returned for their sophomore year. The national average was not available this year, but had gone up to 53.7 percent the prior year.

According to a document prepared by the college for the Utah Board of Regents, two key external factors impact retention significantly. First, many of the college's students leave after one year to serve a mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of latter-Day Saints. Although the actual number of students in small, it often surpasses 10 percent of the colleges freshman class.

Second, the state of Utah encourages students to take concurrent enrollment – a program where students earn fully transferable credit for no charge while enrolled in high school.

While this impacts all nine-state colleges and universities negatively, four-year state institutions at least received an opportunity to use the classes as a "loss leader" in hopes that students will continue at that college for their junior and senior years.

Two-year colleges get hurt the worse because the high school students graduate with their associate degrees, earning transferable credit for free. "For Utah's three-community colleges, the concurrent enrollment essentially gives our product to customers for no charge with little hope of recovering students later," reports the findings.

The Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) reflects a totally different scenario in retention rates for Utah's three two-year colleges. CEU's full-time student retention rate is 76 percent followed by Salt Lake Community College at 56 percent and Snow College at 43 percent. CEU leads the three colleges in part-time student retention rate with 89 percent followed by SLCC with 42 percent and Snow with 30 percent.

IPEDS is a single, comprehensive system designed to encompass all institutions and educational organizations whose primary purpose is to provide post-secondary education.

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