Preparedness, uncertain finances and minority distinctions have been pegged as potential risk factors for students who leave Central Michigan University.
Robert Roe, the executive director of CMU’s Office of Institutional Research and Planning, gave a presentation on retention rates and explained why risk factors can help formulate retention strategies.
“In terms of recruitment, you don’t know the profile of your incoming class,” Roe told Academic Senators on Tuesday. “My point is not about recruiting the right kids. It’s about intervening with the kids you have.”
University officials, including Roe and his department, have been looking at risk factors closely this year to ascertain how these factors contribute to student success in college. Officials have been looking into different ways the university can intervene early enough to make an impact.
The issues of recruitment and retention have been key points in university-wide discussions since enrollment began to decrease after the 2009-10 enrollment boom. Retention has been a common theme in presentations made by Vice President of Enrollment and Student Services, Steven Johnson, at various board of trustees meetings this year.
According to Roe, the IR office looked at past literature detailing important, potential risk factors. These risk factors include preparedness, financial challenges, and the prototypical plight of minority and first-generation students.
Risk factors are determined from the student’s application responses and information taken from ACT scores, federal financial aid reports and high school GPA.
“Across time, (academic risk) is fairly stable,” Roe said. “The minority risk factor is increasing, but that’s not a bad thing. We’re trying to recruit more minority students. Historically, though, if you’re (a) minority, you tend to de-matriculate.”
Charting risk factors is as important to enrollment as recruitment and university advertising, Roe said. CMU has more than a 75 percent retention rate for students with these risk factors.
Early intervention with students who carry these risk factors can be a key weapon against students jumping ship to other universities.
“You’re losing about 24 percent of students between freshman and sophomore year,” he said. “It’s about helping. A student with an academic risk factor verses not having the risk factor is 1.69 times more likely not to come back their sophomore year.”
According to the presentation, some students have multiple risk factors going on at the same time. However, the number of students with more than one risk factor is low, Roe said.
“The 15 percent of the students with more risk factors is equal to about 495 students,” he said. “If the student has four risk factors, you know everything about them. How many do we really have to intervene with?”
In the case of enrollment boosts, like the 2010 enrollment boom that produced a total of 20,444 students on campus, the risk factors are compounded because of an increased number of students.
Yet Roe said his office has determined the percent risk factor of students this year was relatively the same as any other year.
“When you grow an institution, that happens,” he said. “The 2010 class that came in will be having an impact on the 2016 graduation rates. We’ll see the impact on retention rates in 2017.”
The presentation also compared the factors of other Michigan universities. Data presented in the address displayed that CMU’s numbers are similar to Eastern Michigan University, as well as rival school Western Michigan University.
Roe said if there is a way to determine the risk factors of other schools and apply it to funding models, state and federal officials could find new ways to allocate more funding for individual students at CMU.
“(Students at Michigan State University and University of Michigan) already have the skills to succeed,” Roe said. “If we could prove that, we’d get better funding. (U of M) does retention initiatives. They’re destined to have better scores.”
University President George Ross challenged the Michigan Senate Higher Education Committee to re-evaluate their metric for appropriating per-student funding in February.
Andrew Spencer, chairman of A-Senate, said Roe’s presentation was informative and helped give perspective to student-retention efforts on campus.
A-Senator Jim Hill, a political science professor, said the more we look at incoming students’ factors, the better off the university will be in retaining students.
“The kids at (the University of) Michigan have 35′s and 36′s on their ACT scores,” Hill said. “We need to invest more time in our (incoming students’) ACT scores.”