Student Retention Rates Climb at George Mason

Posted: November 3, 2004 at 1:00 am, Last Updated: November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

By Daniel Walsch

Efforts at George Mason in recent years to retain more students have been paying off.

According to the Office of Institutional Research, Mason’s first-year student “persistence rates” for first-time, baccalaureate degree-seeking freshmen have climbed from 75.6 percent in1999 to 81.2 percent in 2003. This means that a greater number of full-time freshmen are remaining at George Mason as they move into their sophomore year.

“Without question, we as an institution are doing better than ever in terms of keeping, or retaining, students,” says Andrew Flagel, dean of admissions. But, he cautions, “We still have room for improvement.”

A look at Mason’s retention rate in comparison with its 24 peer institutions finds the university in the middle. Among the peer institutions, Syracuse University has the highest rate at 91 percent, while Wayne State University in Michigan is lowest at 62 percent.

Linda Schwartstein, vice provost for academic affairs, notes that the retention of undergraduate students is an important priority for Mason and is an indication of the university’s success as an institution. And more and more of Mason’s students are indicating that Mason was their first choice, she adds.

“Research shows that there are multiple factors as to why students, particularly freshmen, decide to stay at or leave an institution,” Schwartzstein says. “One factor revolves around a student’s classroom experiences and contact with faculty outside of the classroom. Another is the student’s experience with campus life. This is why all of us at Mason work as hard as we do to blend our academic programs with university life.”

Research suggests that the first six weeks of a student’s college experience are crucial. “Students are more likely to remain at an institution if they make a personal connection with a faculty or staff member within that critical time frame,” says Sandra Hubler, vice president for university life.

At Mason, Hubler says University Life personnel strive to connect with students on an individual basis and “assist them in developing an academic and personal plan for success. We take the time to get to know them; learn about their experiences, values, and behavioral patterns; and engage them in dialogue about how they see themselves contributing to and participating in the world.”

Statistics show that the retention trend is university-wide. Since 1999, each of the academic units with freshmen majors has increased its student retention rate as follows:

  • College of Arts and Sciences, 77.3 percent to 82.1 percent
  • College of Visual and Performing Arts, 80.9 percent to 84.5 percent
  • College of Education and Human Development, 82.4 percent to 85.7 percent;
  • College of Nursing and Health Science, 78.8 percent to 83.5 percent
  • School of Information Technology and Engineering, 73.5 percent to 82.4 percent
  • School of Management, 78 percent to 80.4 percent

Even the retention rate for freshmen who are undeclared majors has increased from 72.7 percent in 1999 to 78.4 percent in 2003.

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