by ROSE BRENNAN, A&E Editor
Retention is an area of interest for the higher-ups at an institution of higher education, but not a lot of its inner workings are known widely across campuses.
At Manhattan College, retention is the responsibility of several upper-level administrators, including Provost Bill Clyde, who founded a committee for such topic in 2010. Since 2009, retention rates for MC have been over 80 percent.
Another member of this committee is Marisa Passafiume, assistant vice president of academic success.
In addition to the retention committee, Passafiume oversees all of the college’s success services, including the Center for Academic Success, Student Athlete Academic Success Services, opportunity programs including HEOP and CSTEP, the Specialized Resource Center and Retention Services.
“My entire day is centered around retaining our students and assisting them in achieving their goals, both personal and academic,” Passafiume said. “If [the student success unit] can’t help them personally, we find the person on campus that can.”
Academic success and retention are widely-encompassing areas and would be difficult for any person to manage alone. Luckily, Passafiume has help from several of the departments she oversees.
Some of this help comes from Acacia Mauriello, retention specialist. Mauriello’s job entails determining and attempting to meet the unique needs of any student who might need help succeeding at MC.
“Everything I do at Manhattan- working on Mapworks, the new peer mentoring program, the College 101 resource we’re building- is part of a larger effort across departments to build up a more proactive and nimble approach to addressing student needs, deploying people and technology to understand and improve service for all students,” Mauriello said.
Most people outside of the retention realm might be inclined to believe that retention only refers to students who remain at MC for the entirety of their undergraduate studies. But it actually encompasses much more.
Retention rates measure the percentage of students who return to the same institution from one point in time to a second point in time,” said Bridget Miller, director of the office of institutional effectiveness. “The first-time full-time freshman fall-to-fall retention rate measures the percentage of first-time full-time freshmen enrolled at an institution in the fall of one year and who are also enrolled at (return to) the same institution in fall semester of the following year.”
The rate mentioned above is a very common one, and is usually what people think of when they hear the buzz-word.
So how does MC measure up? According to information provided by Miller, retention rates for first-time full-time freshmen among American private 4-year institutions in the US has been around 80 percent since 2009.
Consequently, MC’s retention rate for first-time full-time freshmen has been around the same for the past five years: 85.01 percent for the class of 2020, 88.78 percent for the class of 2019, 83.67 percent for the class of 2018, 83.71 for the class of 2017 and 88.12 percent for the class of 2016.
In short, MC is certainly measuring up when it comes to retention rates in private institutions across America.
Unfortunately, a retention rate of 100 percent is not a likely goal. According to Passafiume, there are a number of factors which determine why a student might withdraw, including outside responsibilities and financial reasons.
Passafiume also insists on the importance of viewing retention from an ethical standpoint.
“If a student decides that after much thought they want to pursue a career in nursing, that it is their life’s passion and they are destined to be a nurse… Well, we don’t have a nursing program, so it would be unethical for us to try and persuade them to stay here,” she said.
Though such cases are rare, there have been a few times when Passafiume believed it was in a student’s best interest to withdraw from the college. However, that does not necessarily mean it is the end of the road for a student in that situation.
“In that case, we help them with the process and let them know should they miss us, they can always come back,” Passafiume said.