CMU finds success in keeping students
More new students at Colorado Mesa University are returning for a second year, the result of an increased effort to help students who struggle with adjusting to college and are more likely to drop out.
Since 2010, there’s been a 9 percentage point increase in the number of first-time, full-time students seeking bachelor’s degrees who come back for a second year at CMU, from a 64 percent retention rate to 73 percent.
The key to getting students to stay in school actually includes many moving parts, according to CMU President Tim Foster.
Offering a variety of financial aid, getting students plugged in on campus, and making sure they know how to succeed in school are some of the best ways to engage and retain students, Foster said, but not the only ways.
“Literally every part of campus has a role to play in retention,” Foster said. “The old saying around here is that culture trumps everything. When you have a culture of people who all appreciate and value being on a campus like this … I think it’s a reflection that CMU is a maturing institution.”
John Marshall, vice president for student services, said financial aid is the foundation of making sure students keep coming back to CMU.
“All the work we do doesn’t amount to a hill of beans if students can’t access it,” Marshall said. He also sees the benefits of increasing student engagement and connection on campus, especially through jobs.
“When we get someone on campus employed, they have someone to talk to and help figure out a problem, whatever it is,” he said. “I think it’s also not an accident that we’ve grown as a residential campus. We know living on campus has a significantly positive impact on student retention and success.”
Sometimes, connections are as simple as club sports or campus organizations — many of which didn’t exist at CMU 10 years ago, Marshall said.