DU sets retention record again

Photo by Claire Murray | Photo Editor. Duquesne students venture to classes Tuesday on Academic Walk.

Photo by Claire Murray | Photo Editor. Duquesne students venture to classes Tuesday on Academic Walk.

By Max Blechman | The Duquesne Duke

Duquesne recorded another record-high freshman to sophomore retention rate this fall, just five years after the University formed a committee to address retention issues.

Approximately 89.8 percent of students who were freshmen last academic year returned to Duquesne this fall. The current sophomore class was also the largest incoming freshman class in University history last fall with 1,550 students.

The University also broke a record in the 2013-2014 academic year, when 97.1 percent of freshmen enrolled in the fall returned for the spring semester. Setting multiple records for a single academic class is a landmark for the University, according to director of retention and advisement J.D. Douglas.

Retention numbers have been on the rise following a sizable dip in the late 2000s, hitting a low in 2009, when the rate fell to 84.2 percent, which could be attributed to the economic crisis, Douglas said. Because of this dip, the University formed the Undergraduate Retention Committee in 2009, an interdepartmental committee dedicated to identifying and overcoming boundaries for returning students.

Douglas attributes the high retention rates to implementation of early academic alerting system Starfish, which utilizes information regarding student academic performance to identify struggling students. This tool is utilized in conjunction with increasing involvement from the financial aid office and academic advisors.

The retention committee has taken these resources and utilized them to personally help struggling students, according to Paul-James Cukanna, associate provost for enrollment management.

“Starfish helps us to identify students who may be at risk for dropping out … but that tool cannot replace the counseling and the personal touch, the personal outreach,” Cukanna said.

Cukanna said the change can also be attributed to better recruitment and academic preparedness for incoming students.

“We know that for the majority of freshmen, about 97 percent, Duquesne is their first choice,” Cukanna said. “Academic preparedness, the fact that Duquesne is their top choice, and all of the support structures — academic and administrative support — [all contribute to student satisfaction].”

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