Five years post-Katrina, Dillard University’s first-year freshman retention rates are on par with other schools around the state and nation.
An average of one in four freshmen drop out of college, according to the American College Testing site. U.S. News & World Report places the ratio lower, at one in three, with reasons such as family problems, loneliness, academic struggles and lack of money.
As of 2008, the first-year retention rate at Dillard was 70 percent, according to statistics provided by the Office of Student Success. That’s on par with the national average of 69.9 percent from 1983-2009, according to CollegeToolKit.com, a resource site for college statistics and information.
The ACT said four-year U.S. private schools with bachelor’s degrees had an average completion rate of 55.9 percent, compared with 41 percent of Dillard’s 2006 freshmen around to graduate in 2010, according to DU statistics.
Within the state, Tulane University here in New Orleans and Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge had the highest freshman retention rate in 2007, at 88 percent and 85 percent, respectively, according to CollegeToolKit.com. The University of Louisiana at Lafayette had 74 percent, and both Loyola University in New Orleans and Xavier had 73 percent.
However, some four-year Louisiana schools posted lower numbers for freshman retention, according to the Web site. The University of New Orleans joined Dillard at mid-range, posting 69 percent in 2007. Others were Southern University in Baton Rouge and McNeese State, both 68 percent; Nicholls State University, 67 percent.
Lower freshmen retention rates were posted by Grambling State University, 59 percent, and Southern University in New Orleans, 43 percent.
Dr. Toya Barnes-Teamer, vice president of Student Success, said, “Katrina, although a major obstacle for overall enrollment, also has been an opportunity to assess all practices in the areas of recruitment and retention.
“University-wide efforts have and will continue to make a difference,” said Barnes-Teamer, referring to the revised Enrollment Recovery Plan of 2007, which aims to increase retention.
Even before Hurricane Katrina, Dillard retention rates were declining, according to a Student Success report on retention from 2001 to 2008. In 2001, Dillard had 608 freshmen enrolled and retained 76 percent the following year. The freshman count steadily dropped between 2001 and 2004, when 501 freshmen were enrolled and 73 percent returned the following year. The worst came post-Katrina, when 495 freshmen enrolled, but only 224, or 45 percent, were still at Dillard in 2006.
Since then, however, retention has improved, with a 61 percent retention rate of the 222 freshmen in 2006; a 69 percent retention for the 175 freshmen in 2007; and 70 percent retention for the 173 freshmen in 2008, the most recent year for which data was provided.
(Martin Bradford contributed to this report.)