Rutgers ranks 69th nationally in student retention rates

<p>Courtney McAnuff, vice president for Enrollment Management, said despite its high ranking the University is making strides to improve retention rates and mitigate student withdrawals during their first years at Rutgers.</p>

Courtney McAnuff, vice president for Enrollment Management, said despite its high ranking the University is making strides to improve retention rates and mitigate student withdrawals during their first years at Rutgers.

U.S. News & World Report considers factors like first-year retention rate, graduation rate and selectivity, to determine its yearly ranking of the best schools in the nation. Rutgers—New Brunswick ranked number 69 in the most recent rating.  

The New Brunswick campus is above the national-average retention rate for beginning students, with 92 percent returning in 2018, according to the ranking. 

Although its retention rate is on the higher side, the University is making efforts to improve retention and mitigate withdrawal, said Courtney McAnuff, vice president for Enrollment Management.

“Broadly, (the reasons students leave) can be classified into two groups — voluntary and nonvoluntary. Voluntary reasons are ‘I don’t like the campus,’ ‘(it is) much harder than I thought it would be.’ Involuntary reasons (are) family emergencies, even natural disasters. I’ve tried to identify the reasons, and financial aid is a big reason,” McAnuff said.  

He said that many families misjudge the cost of attending college, a phenomenon made apparent by the number of in-state students who transfer into Rutgers after their first year. 

More than 78 percent of students receive some form of aid, approximately $620 million received by undergraduate students alone, according to the Office of Financial Aid homepage

A lesser-known reason for students leaving is because of a standard called the “satisfactory academic progress,” McAnuff said.

If a student is attending school with assistance from a third-party financial source, such as a federal or state institution, the grade received in a paid-for class matters, he explained. If the student’s academic performance is not on par with the third-party’s progress standards, aid can be rescinded. 

He said that several hundred students a year leave the University because of failed financial aid eligibility.

Retention rates also coincide with other factors, such as the location of where students are employed. McAnuff said students who work on campus tend to be retained at a higher rate.

"If you work in an office like (the Office of Enrollment Management), you have some different mentors," he said. "If you are struggling with a class or need help with registration, we can tell you who to go see. You have a whole different level of people who can help you. We also know you’re limited to 20 hours a week. (Outside employers) are not as flexible to the fact that you have final exams or other commitments. The off-campus work experience harms retention, while on-campus boosts retention.”

McAnuff said the University utilizes the National Student Clearinghouse, an organization that tracks students' outcomes, to view statistics on student retention and where students who transfer out are going. The University can analyze this data and discuss how to move forward with it. 

Student surveys are also conducted through third party means, and a recent study reported dissatisfaction with specific services on campus, he said. One of the major complaints was the lack of centrism in financial services, with many students highlighting the obstacle of getting assistance after constantly being referred to another office. 

McAnuff said the University is currently planning to build a new student service facility across from the Busch Student Center. This center will consolidate multiple services across campus and offer assistance for any non-academic concerns. As a “one-stop shop” for various issues, the hope is to increase satisfaction and ultimately, student retention.

Mobile applications are also being developed alongside this change in facility. 

He said the University has identified common questions that students have and have been working on a way to "digitize" the answers.

“In theory, you will be able to solve most of your issues on your mobile device," McAnuff said. 

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