Retention is a key performance indicator because it measures both student satisfaction and our capacity to give students the support they need in order to succeed. Of course, retention efforts are complicated by the fact that community college students lead complicated lives. Many of our students are self-supporting, and many also support spouses and children. A third of our students are over 25. Most of them are employed either part-time or full-time. Students, therefore, often leave college despite our best efforts because of changes in employment or family situation. Moreover, even among the students who have matriculated into a specific program, many have goals that do not include graduation. Students planning to transfer to a four year institution, for example, will often leave before graduating and thus be counted among the non-retained.
Despite these factors, the College must continuously work to improve its efforts in retaining students. We never know when a little bit of extra attention might make the difference between a student leaving college and a student fulfilling his or her educational goal. Improving those efforts requires that we track retention rates over time, both in the aggregate and program by program in order to determine what changes prove most effective.
Our overall retention rates are very good compared to most community colleges. Approximately two-thirds of our students who register in the fall semester either graduate or return the following fall. However, there is quite a difference in retention rates among our various programs, ranging this year from 42% in Liberal Arts to 88% in Nursing. While not all programs can be expected to achieve the same retention, by examining the best practices of the most successful, we can discover ways to ensure the highest possible retention in all programs.