MC task force is exploring ways to increase first-year retention rate

Although its retention rate in recent years for first-year students is higher than the national average, Marietta College has formed a task force to look at ways to improve those numbers.

“The goal is always to have 100 percent, and that would be the ideal world,” said Gama Perruci, dean of the McDonough Center and McCoy Professor of Leadership Studies, who is chairing the task force. “The work of the task force is to look at the data and to look at all of the different variables and see what is affecting our retention rate and what we should do about it, with the goal of increasing our retention rate.”

The retention rate for the college wasn’t problematic, Perruci said. According to statistics provided by Tom Perry, executive director of college relations, Marietta’s retention rate for first-year students ranged between 74.2 and 79.5 percent over the last six years. The national average for private colleges is 67.3 percent, according to ACT’s Institutional Research, he said.

Still, the task force, made up of individuals from around the college, is looking at ways to increase the first-year retention rate, as well as the overall graduation rate, for which statistics were not immediately available Friday.

There is an investment in recruiting students, “and so there is the expectation that once we put that effort (in) that they will stay and become part of that community,” he said.

Retention is also part of growth.

“When we talk about growing as an institution, it’s always cheaper to retain than recruit a new student,” Perruci said.

The task force is expected to present recommendations to the president and board of trustees in February. Perruci declined to discuss what those recommendations might be, but said a number of factors can lead to a student leaving a school.

The first- to second-year rate is focused on because it’s easier for students to leave then, before they’ve accumulated a lot of credits that would be difficult to transfer, he said.

“Sometimes financial changes – (a) parent loses a job, so it becomes a financial hardship,” Perruci said. “Or they may decide that they really are not prepared to continue in higher education.”

Sometimes homesickness kicks in, or the college just isn’t the right fit for the student.

Marietta College freshman Clayton Cowgill, from Alliance, said he’s returning to school here next year, but he has a couple of friends who are transferring. They didn’t have anything against the college itself, but felt other institutions would be a better fit.

Cowgill said the college is a good fit for him, after attending smaller middle and high schools.

“I like the small atmosphere better,” he said. “Generally, everyone here’s really nice.”

Marietta resident Jordan Reynolds, a freshman, said she originally planned to go to the University of Cincinnati, but feels she made the right decision in selecting MC.

“You don’t get lost in the shuffle of thousands of students,” she said.

But sometimes, the small-town experience is a deterrent for students, Perruci said.

It was definitely a change for Brian Holliday, a freshman who came to Marietta College from Brooklyn, N.Y.

“In New York, I didn’t really need a car to go anywhere,” he said. “I could go anywhere I wanted at anytime.”

That’s been an adjustment, but Holliday said he’s happy with how his freshman year has gone and he plans to spend four years at the college, noting being a member of the football team is one incentive.

Reynolds said she has heard one or two classmates talk about transferring away, but she also noted she’s in classes this semester with students who have transferred to Marietta.

“Something obviously brought them here,” she said.