Retention rate in response to the pandemic

EMILY HENDERSON
STAFF WRITER

Alma College’s campus has looked very different this past year: new restrictions being put in place, classrooms looking and behaving differently and social events being a thing of the past. The question now that must be asked is how this pandemic has affected Alma’s retention rate.

Retention rate refers to the percentage of first-year students that return to a campus the next academic year. Alma College’s retention rate of first-years in 2019 was 81.9%. The national retention rate in 2018 was 81%, so Alma has kept up with the pack when it comes to the rate at which students return.

The data regarding Alma’s current retention rates will be available by February 1st, and this will provide insight into just how large of a toll the ongoing pandemic has placed on our campus community.

While many students excitedly returned to campus following winter break, this is not the case for all.

“We have 60 students fully online this term, in comparison to 43 last term,” said Vice President of Student Affairs, Damon Brown.

The college has been working with students individually and as a whole to ensure that the education they receive is as riveting and informational as possible during these difficult and strange times. Those that chose to return to campus for the winter semester are able to continue their education either fully in-person or in a hyflex format, depending on the preference of each professor and student.

“One impactful strategy has been offering students the option to study online and working individually with each student to create an online schedule through a mixture of online, hyflex, and lecture-based courses that, in many cases, faculty have been willing to adapt to meet the needs of online students. Without an online option, we likely would’ve lost the 60 students who stayed as online-only students,” said Brown.

The hard work and dedication of professors, students and faculty have made education possible even during these unprecedented times.

While students continue to battle both rigorous courses and the pandemic, they must keep in mind that the virtual doors to Alma College’s Student Affairs office are always open.

Not only is the Student Affairs office focused on healthy students, those that fall ill to COVID-19 this semester may find that the transition from in-person and hyflex classes to completely online in isolation moves more smoothly than last semester.

“Academic Support staff gathered survey data about the experiences of students on medical leave. The data from this survey was used to optimize the student medical leave process and support to streamline communication and vary the touchpoints of support offered to students at critical times,” said Brown.

For those who aren’t ill, they may start to feel isolated and lonely as there aren’t as many campus-wide events going on nowadays. The Student Affairs office is working diligently to bring COVID-safe events and activities to campus this semester.

Activities include a campus-wide fitness challenge, academic support geared towards wellness and motivation, virtual and in-person study groups, pick-up activities and more.

“Student Affairs staff is supporting programming to increase student motivation and decrease student isolation,” said Brown.

February will bring some much-needed information to light regarding the impacts this pandemic has had on student retention rate. The college’s Student Affairs office will continue to evolve and work with students and faculty during these unprecedented times.

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