Central's Retention Continues Steady Ascent

While Central Methodist University’s 18 percent enrollment increase is making headlines, another important metric is quietly making a case for its own accolades. Retention, one of the strongest indicators of a college’s academic quality, has increased at Central for the fifth consecutive year.

CMU is reporting a 73.45 percent retention rate for first-time, full-time students.

“If you were to ask me what has made the difference, I would say it isn’t one thing—it’s everything,” President Roger Drake told his Board of Trustees. “We’re talking about retention at every meeting and keeping it in the forefront of our collective mind.”

Drake said that there are other more measurable efforts that have contributed to the nearly six percent increase over fall 2017. He said programs such as Eagle Connect, a student engagement effort, have helped, along with improvements in the reserve team sports experience, better financial aid leveraging, and stronger Greek Life programs.

In addition, the multimillion-dollar renovation of Stedman Hall of Science has helped retain STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) majors, and the Digital U iPad initiative has had an impact.

“First and foremost, the improvement in retention is most attributable to a change in culture on campus,” Drake said. “There is a student-centered atmosphere, and a caring and talented faculty, There are new academic programs, dramatically improved business and customer service processes, and new engagement opportunities like the Center for Faith and Service. They have all played a role.”

Drake placed a focus on retention when he came to Central in 2013, emphasizing “a new willingness to demonstrate active-caring, and a new willingness to intervene in the life of a young person.” The 2013 retention rate was 57.6, and Central has seen steady increases every year since Drake arrived on campus.

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