Student athletes drive decrease in Fall-Spring retention numbers

After increasing retention rate numbers last year, Baldwin Wallace University’s retention numbers decreased between this past fall and spring semester.
Although the institution deals with multiple factors that create a challenge for retention, said Steve Stahl, BW provost, staff and faculty involved discovered a majority of students who don’t return are student athletes.
“Just over half of the students who left us are athletes,” he said. “The NCAA (National Collegiate Athletic Association) doesn’t define people as a student unless they are on the team roster after the second game has been played. So we had 34 athletes leave us; only 3 of them made it on the team roster.”
Athletes will remain to be an area of focus in regards to retaining efforts, Stahl said. From first to second semester, the institution’s overarching goal is to retain 95% of students, with the knowledge that some students are harder to retain than others. This year, however, the institution retained 91% from fall to spring, dropping from last years 93%.
Over the past five years, faculty and staff have completed a careful analysis of the attributes of students who stay and the students who leave. Although most of the students who leave are athletes, said Stahl, students of other demographics are leaving, too. In order to avoid students leaving, those involved work with students to create a success-driven environment, he said.
“Our goal has always been driven by the ethics,” said Stahl. “We need to work with [admitted students] to make sure they have every opportunity to succeed. [We] measure their success by retention. We have made significant progress with that, [but] we need to work on athletes who don’t make the team.”
In order to increase retention numbers and student population as a whole, Baldwin Wallace staff and faculty have looked into different options, said Trina Dobberstein, Vice President for Student Affairs at Baldwin Wallace University. BW is constantly looking into alternative ways to increase numbers.
“A way we are hoping to fix that is an increase in our graduate program numbers,” she said. “[We] added engineering and are adding hospitality… but we continue to survey the landscape and figure out new areas to grow in.”
By utilizing the institution’s value proposition, BW is able to differentiate itself from other schools, she said. Along with adding more programs, BW is working to become more sophisticated in its recruiting efforts.
While retention numbers are not earth shattering, Dobberstein said she and her staff are trying to figure out how to make necessary adjustments. One way to do this is to look into ways to further engage students. One way the institution is looking to do this is by connecting students to professors earlier in their college careers, or starting a peer-mentor system.
“As an institution, it [is] also important for us to identify earlier where students go ‘off the rail’ so to say,” Dobberstein said. “We want students to realize how our university not only benefits them now, but in the future when they’re applying to graduate schools or looking for their first career.”
Although all of retention logistics are hard to fix, constant retention has always been a goal for BW, as for a majority of other institutions, she said. To Dobberstein, the difference, as far as percentages go, is how BW sets itself apart from its competitors.