Goshen College retention rates are high, compared to other Mennonite institutions and other universities in Indiana.
Retention refers to the number of students who start as full-time students and return for a second year. Universities are specifically interested in first- and second-year students because those are the most tumultuous years of college, when students are most likely to leave due to institutional circumstances.
Historically, Goshen College has maintained high retention rates. In the 18 years, from 2001 to 2018, the average retention rate was 79.9%. Retention for the most recent cohort, current sophomores, was slightly lower at 75.5%.
Adela Hufford, associate VP for retention, says that the ultimate goal with retention is to help students graduate. To do this, they connect students with the resources that they need and try to create a culture where asking for help is the norm.
Hufford says that one of the most important factors for high retention is having a “tribe” — an identity and a sense of belonging on campus. She cites student-athletes as an example.
“In general, student-athletes have retained at a higher rate than non student-athletes at Goshen College…. You have a pre-built support system that is holding you accountable for things.”
In the fall 2018 cohort, men’s cross country, track and tennis, along with women’s cross country and volleyball, all had a 100% retention rate.
While athletics form community, Hufford says that they aren’t the only type of group on campus that does so.
“Other pockets on campus would have very similar situations, music ensembles for example,” she said.
Mennonite students also retain at a significantly higher rate than non-Mennonite students. The class of 2022 had a 75% retention rate overall, but among Mennonite students it was 90%. Hufford believes that this is because they have a better understanding of the Mennonite tradition and culture that exists on campus.
Hufford spoke about the strategies used to help students retain and the various checkpoints throughout the first and second year that give students the support that they need.
Identity, Culture and Community cohorts, the early graded experience, early advising and early alerts are just some of the ways faculty check in with students and ensure they are doing well. An early alert is used to make the administration aware of students with unexcused absences during the first few weeks. Hufford also meets personally with students who seem to be struggling with their classwork and attendance.
Faculty advising, office hours, student life, student ministries and campus counselors are other resources that are offered to students.
However, if efforts fail and a student decides to leave Goshen, the administration is interested in knowing why. A one-on-one meeting is arranged and an exit survey is sent out, in order to gain a better understanding of the problems and whether they were systemic, or more personal, and how they can use that information to better retain future students.
Retention is an important indicator of the campus environment and how well the support systems that are in place are functioning.
Anyone who is a part of the Goshen College community can access more specific, updated statistics regarding retention based on race and ethnicity, gender, and religion on the live GC Online Fact Book, which can be found at https://www.goshen.edu/ir/factbook/.