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The Blue & Gray Press | September 25, 2017

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UMW maintains higher retention rates than peers

BY CATE STACKHOUSE

The University of Mary Washington’s current retention rate is 83 percent, according to a graph from the Office of the Provost website that indicates the retention rates at UMW increased after 2006, fell in 2008 and plateaued since then.

UMW is part of the Council of Public Liberal Arts Colleges (COPLAC) and is rated against peer universities that are also part of COPLAC. Some of UMW’s peer institutions include the College of Charleston, University of North Carolina at Asheville and Evergreen State College in Washington State. Even with UMW rates stagnating, it still has averages above those of its peer universities.

The 2010-2011 COPLAC Data Profile of UMW indicated the University held a retention rate of 85 percent. A 2012 Common Data Set published by the University itself showed an 83 percent retention rate. The data set for 2013 is not yet published, but Jonathan Levin, university provost expects the retention rate for 2013 will be in the low 80s.

A data profile published by the College of Charleston shows it having a retention rate of 82.2 percent in 2010 but the College of Charleston maintained steady rates in the past years, fluctuating in the 82 to 83 percent rage.

Evergreen State College in Washington State possesses a 72 percent retention rate according to its university website fact page, which puts UMW at a higher retention rate than two of its peer universities.

“If you look at schools in the same category as UMW, we do exceptionally well,” said Levin. “UMW has been in the 80 to 90 range for years, so we are doing very well. We are hoping to push back up to solidly mid-80, and maybe even push the envelope towards 90 percent.”

UMW is also compared to its fellow Virginia schools. According to Christopher Newport University (CNU) President’s report from 2012, CNU had retention of 85 percent; just two percentage points above UMW.

Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) published an Annual Report for the 2012-2013 year that indicated VCU had a university-wide retention rate of 76 percent for sophomores.

In contrast to UMW, CNU and VCU, the University of Virginia had a 97.5 percent retention rate of the 2011 freshman class returning in 2012, according to the UVA website fact page.

There are many factors that affect retention rates at universities. According to Levin, some of the main factors at UMW are financial, medical, social and academic.

“Some students do not return for academic reasons,” said Levin. “They may be asked not to return to the university if they are doing too poorly academically or they might not return if they got a C-average, and their parents want them to do a year or two at junior college.”

For academics, majors can also be a factor.

“50 percent of UMW students are undecided. Sometimes students will decide they want a certain program or certification that the university does not provide,” said Levin. “The reality of retention is that there are a lot of factors. Some you can address and some you cannot.”

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