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OU strives for high retention

Ohio University has had record-breaking enrollment rates for the past two years but is now shifting its focus on the retention rates of students.

During the Student Senate’s meeting Wednesday, Student Trustees Mia Citino and Garrett Meek said there is an increase in retention rates across all of OU’s campuses. 

For regional campuses, there is a 66% retention rate and an 84.7% rate at the Athens campus. The trustees also said 54.7% of students graduate within four years, and 71.5% of students will graduate within six years. 

At the OU Board of Trustees meeting on Jan. 18, Provost Elizabeth Sayrs and Vice President for Enrollment Management Candace Boeninger presented enrollment and retention rate numbers. 

Within this presentation, Sayrs said the retention rates differ among regional campuses. 

“We know that the shift of course modality has a significant impact on retention on regional campuses,” Sayrs said. “So different campuses, different universities have different actors that have their retention.” 

Several programs are not offered on regional campuses, as well as economic barriers, Sayrs said, which can result in students wanting to relocate and finish their degree online. 

The overall retention rate is affected by how many students attend and withdraw from a university, but the retention rate can also shift within certain programs without impacting the overall retention rate.   

“As you shift students, for example, into an honors program, where the retention rate is higher, that doesn't impact on the overall university retention, as you shift into nursing the retention rates lower back,” Sayrs said.

Retention rate is something the university is concerned with from fall semester to spring semesters and between academic years. 

President Lori Gonzalez made this clear at a media conference at the beginning of the 2023-24 academic year. 

“I think (retention) really is a testament to the quality and the value of an education at Ohio University more of our students who were here came back in the fall, we call that our retention rate and that went up, which means that students are coming back and that they're more likely to finish their degree,” Gonzalez said.

More recently, at an OU updates session held on Monday, Boeninger mentioned the university’s recent record-breaking enrollment numbers within the past academic years but reminded everyone that enrollment was not the only goal. 

Boeninger, at the media conference with Gonzalez, said that the main goal for the university is not to have record-breaking enrollment every year but to graduate and produce successful students.

“Our goal is really more about ensuring successful student outcomes, that we’re graduating students and putting them into workforce and graduate programs, and that kind of thing with a great degree of success that's happening as well and that will continue to be our focus,” Boeninger said. 

One way OU is continuing to focus on the retention rate is through certain programs and scholarships to maintain the retention of certain student populations, such as regional students. 

“We found the areas that impact on retention, so one is the regional promise program and this was the scholarship program for Pell-eligible students in the region, and you can see that their retention rate was way higher,” Sayrs said.

The enrollment office has also started to work toward managing the number of students OU as an institution can sustain. 

“We are also starting to be very planful about this capacity analysis,” Boeninger said. “What do we need to understand about how many students we need to operate well, and at what point we might need to think about volume.”

Retention rates were not included in this report because OU's website does not have numbers updated on its current website that reflect the record-breaking freshman classes of the last two years.


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