Millikin’s retention rate: Is it really as bad as it seems?

Caitlin Husted, Staff Writer

Millikin’s retention rate is widely talked about around campus. When talking to students, the common consensus is that Millikin has a difficult time keeping students at the school. However, this is a misconception.

In a normal private university, the average retention rate lies at 62 percent. Over the last four years, Millikin has had a retention rate between 76 and 78 percent and has stayed between 75 and 80 percent over the last 10 years, which is far above average.

“I think [Millikin is] doing pretty well, but if we could do better, that would make a difference,” President Patrick White said.

There are four main reasons why a student will leave a school, which include academic, motivational, psychosocial and financial reasons.

If students are struggling in class, don’t feel like anyone is encouraging them, doesn’t connect with the university or cannot afford their education, they are more likely to leave an institution than those who do not struggle with these issues.

At Millikin, Dean of Students Raphaella Prange has looked at these issues and has taken the responsibility of the retention of students under her belt. She has taken the four main reasons for why students leave and has found a way to help solve those problems.

“She’s the one driving all of this and her research is great. It’s cutting edge,” Director of Undergraduate Admission Joseph Havis said. “I think she’s doing a really good job.”

The first strategy Prange has put into practice is intrusive mentoring and advising. Part of this includes giving students who are considered to be at a high risk for leaving the school a second advisor.

Academic advisors are not always able to give students the special attention that is needed. A lot of students just need someone to check in on them and ask, “Hey, how are you doing?” With this new advising plan, students are able to get the support they need.

Another part of the intrusive mentoring and advising strategy is the new scoring system to keep track of students who may be “at risk.” If students score between zero and 29, they are placed into the “doing great” category. If students score between 30 and 49, they are considered to be “at risk.” Finally, if  students score 50 or above, they are placed in the “attrition likely” category.

Prange has begun using this scoring system in order to keep an eye on students who may need a little extra help. A college’s goal is to not only educate their students, but make them feel welcome and encouraged. With this new program, Prange is doing just that.

The second strategy Prange has put into practice is the restructure of Multicultural affairs.

“We know, from a national standpoint, that students who feel more connected to their institution and more included, [and] the feeling like their identities are more honored, are going to retain at a higher rate,” Prange said.

To help with this, over the summer Prange took under the task of combining the Office of Student Programs and the Center of Multicultural Student Affairs, creating what is now known as the Office of Inclusion and Student Engagement, ISE.

The third strategy put into practice was a focus on academic identity. Prange believes that if a person feels connected to their major, course work and professor, he or she is more likely to stay. To help with this, Prange is working on getting the word out to faculty. She wants to tell them what they could do to improve on the classroom side to help other with their academic side.

The final strategy put into place is data decision making. Millikin students participate in a plethora of surveys and in this strategy, Prange is taking the results from those surveys and putting them to good use. She hopes to take the information gathered and improve student’s feelings about Millikin and the university as a whole.

Prange’s new strategies have only been in place for a year as of now, and faculty seems hopeful for the outcome of her new plan.

White said, “I’m very excited about the program Dean Prange is putting together because I think it could be a landmark program throughout the country to help people focus on the elements that come into retention.”

Although Prange is excited and hopeful about the new implications, she still believes that more can be done.

“We need to develop what I call a well-reasoned goal,” Prange said. “And by that I mean looking at the data, looking at the benchmarks out there nationally and then make a goal as a campus and then follow with action steps. It has to be a collaborative campus wide effort.”