Retention dips slightly, but still around U.S. average

NEW ORLEANS (Oct. 6, 2016)  – Retention at Dillard University dropped for the first time in three years in 2015, according to Dr. Willie Kirkland, director of institutional research, but the rate is still average for private colleges and universities.

Statistics provided by Kirkland show that retention dropped four percentage points in 2015, to 71 percent, after a period in which retention steadily rose at Dillard. For example, in 2012, retention was 58 percent and then rose to 74 percent in 2013 and 75 percent in 2014.

The reason? Research of Dillard students indicate the two major factors that influence retention is first-semester grade-point averages and the amount of unmet financial need, Kirkland said. Students with larger between their financial aid award and the cost of tuition tend not to return at the same rate as students with lower gaps, Kirkland said. Furthermore, students below a GPA of a 2.0 or below have the lowest retention rates and are less than likely to return for their second year.

Of freshmen who have less than a 2.0 GPA, Kirkland said, “Over the course of six years, probably one in 10 will actually graduate.”

An ACT report said that among public institutions, the retention rate of full-time, first-time students who started in fall 2013 was 64.2 percent. For private colleges and universities, the rate was higher, at 70.2 percent.

According to U.S. News and World Report, Dillard is ranked No. 12 among historically black colleges and universities, behind No. 6 Xavier. The top two are Spelman College and Howard University. Retention and graduation rates are among the criteria for the rankings.

Kirkland said, “Programs like the S.A.F.E. fund was created based on a study of why students leave.”

S.A.F.E. contributes emergency funding assistance to retain Dillard students who might otherwise be forced to forfeit attending school because of short-term financial hardships.

(Tassion Lott-Minor contributed to this report.)