Bradley’s freshman retention rate continues to rise

Though the freshman class is the largest Bradley has seen in recent memory, the percentage of returning students for the spring semester is at its second highest in a decade.

The mid-year retention rate last year was at 96 percent, and this year it is at 97.2, the highest it has been since 2007.

“The mid-year retention rate is like a mini indication for the freshman-sophomore retention rate, and we are up a point from last year,” said Vice President for Student Affairs Alan Galsky. “We won’t have those numbers until next year, but this is a pretty good indicator.”

Galsky said he is pleased with the number, especially with a larger freshman class.

“One percentage point is significant because that is equal to about 11 students,” he said. “The nice thing about 2010 is that because of the size of this class, we are retaining a higher percentage of more students.”

The average total retaining rate, which shows the percentage of students returning after their freshman year, was at 87.2 last year. That is up slightly from 87 percent in 2008, and is about six percentage points higher than the average private, selective school.

“We are getting the freshman-sophomore retention rate up around where it is at highly selective schools like Harvard and Princeton,” Galsky said. “We aren’t quite there yet, but it would be nice to get there.”

Twenty years ago, the retention rate was where most universities comparable to Bradley typically hover; about 81 percent.

“During the nineties, our freshman-sophomore retention rate was at about 82 percent,” he said. “That was okay, but it wasn’t okay for Bradley. So in 1995 we put together a campus-wide effort to improve on all areas that would affect retention. That has made a lot of the difference.”

Another aspect that has positively affected retention rate is the Turning Point program for students on academic probation, Galsky said.

“The program has helped to keep a lot of students from being dismissed,” he said. “The academic classes have also improved, and services available for students are better than they were.”

The university also breaks down the freshman class to see which specific groups are being retained, Galsky said.

“We break it [down into] subgroups like [gender, race, college and decile],” he said. “We’ve found that we are retaining students who had been in the top 10 percent of their high school at the highest level. But we are still retaining well into the fourth decile, which means students feel that they are in an educationally stimulating environment but are still at a manageable level.”

Galsky said while there is always room for improvement, he is satisfied with the results.

“As long as we maintain a rate in the high ’80s, that tells us we’re providing the right environment,” he said. “These numbers are very flattering.”