Colby-Sawyer College’s student retention rate has increased for the sixth consecutive year to 77.9 percent, a 2.2 percent increase from 2014.

Retention rates measure the percentage of students who start in the fall of one academic year and return for their second fall. The national average retention rate in 2015 for traditional private baccalaureate colleges such as Colby-Sawyer is 64.9 percent, according to ACT, Inc., the nonprofit organization for college and career success that administers the ACT college readiness test.

Academic Vice President and Dean of Faculty Deborah Taylor, Ph.D., believes the increase in student retention reflects the Colby-Sawyer experience.

“Student retention from first to second year is an important indicator of the quality of the full educational experience that students receive – in class, residence halls, student activities, co-curricular learning experiences, internships, and so on,” says Vice President Taylor. “The fact that we are achieving increasing retention rates, and retention rates that exceed the norm for colleges of our kind, speaks highly of the value that students place on their experience at Colby-Sawyer.”

In addition to a strengthened support system for students, Kim Sauerwein, director of Student Success and Retention, also attributes the increase in retention to a curricular conversion that shifted the college from a predominantly three-credit per course model to a predominantly four-credit per course model with an increase in both class time and out-of-class work time. This change better fosters engaged learning and offers more flexibility for study abroad options and transfer students.

Attention to students’ financial situations and the great support first-year students receive from faculty, advisers, staff, peer mentors and others are also important factors. According to Sauerwein, retention is an indicator of student success, which “leads to a stronger reputation, which leads to more resources, which leads to better support for student success – it is circular and sustainable.”