Positive Trends in Retention - September 2010

To:                   The St. Lawrence Community
From:              William L. Fox, President
Date:               September 13, 2010
Subject:          Positive Trends

With fall census data for enrollment now complete, we have some great results to share.

Some of the best possible indicators of our institutional strength and promise are in top form. This is welcome news as we remain in a period of economic uncertainty and fiscal strain, all the while keeping our focus tightly on St. Lawrence’s own response to the Great Recession. There is a significant uptick in trend lines we all can claim and celebrate:

Retention of first-year students for their sophomore year is at its highest rate in 20 years: 92.2%.  This is seven points higher than it was 10 years ago.  For context, the retention rate of the colleges ranked in the top 25 of National Liberal Arts Colleges in US News and World Reporthave an average first-year to sophomore retention rate of 95%.  You can see how much progress we’ve made, and, I hope, you can see that we could indeed reach a very competitive place in this rankings indicator.

Retention of sophomore students for their junior year also is at the highest level over the last 20 years at 86.7%, a nine point jump in 10 years.  That we are enjoying these very high retention rates in a time when families are challenged by the economy is testimony to the campus commitment to excellence felt by our students, and that strong sense is due to the good work in every corner of campus.  From effective and challenging teachers in the classroom, to caring and attentive staff and coaches, to supportive peers, everyone plays a role in retention. Well done and, simply, thank you.  

Graduation rate
Because our retention rate has been rising steadily, we now have begun to see real improvement in our graduation rates.  Our six-year graduation rate (six years is the standard used by government agencies and rating organizations) is at 82.7%, the highest rate since 1990 and 10 points higher than a decade ago.  Again, for context, the average graduation rate of the national liberal arts colleges ranked the top 25 in US News and World Report is 90%.  Working closely with students to assure they complete their undergraduate education and thus can take the next steps to careers and graduate school, is a central goal for us all.  Much appreciation ought to touch everyone who plays a role in helping our students reach this life milestone.

We also know more about the recent US News and World Report rankings.  St. Lawrence moved up one position this year, to rank 55, as we shared a few weeks ago when the on-line version was released.  We now know that the University appears in the full version of the rankings on three very competitive and important lists of the top National Liberal Arts Colleges:

Highest Graduation Rate 
Most Students Living On Campus 
Most Students Studying Abroad 

And in the fall edition of Princeton Review, St. Lawrence is recognized on three lists of the “best:”
Lab facilities are great
Athletic facilities are great
Low cost of living

Our good work in campus planning, choice of priorities, and growing national reputation is truly effective.

Stressing my belief that we must continue to adjust ourselves to a different order of pressures and economic values, we enter the next stage of strategic thinking with much good work, good results, good will, and a tradition of excellence to serve as our foundation.