Faculty Senate Hears Update on Enrollment and Retention

The university continues to enhance retention efforts, engaging a wide range of partners who work together to support students’ success.

December 12, 2016

laurie koehler

Laurie Koehler, vice provost for enrollment management and retention, updates Faculty Senate on enrollment and retention efforts and the increasingly competitive market for undergraduates. (Logan Werlinger/GW Today)

Faculty Senate members received an update Friday on the university’s recent enrollment and retention successes in addition to the opportunities and challenges moving forward.

Laurie Koehler, vice provost for enrollment management and retention, said the university saw an increase in first-year applications for spots in the class of 2020 as well as what was an anticipated decline in the number of students who enrolled at GW after being accepted, as students continue to apply to more schools and “we swing for the fences” in pursuing the most academically talented class possible.

In addition to highlighting the increasingly competitive market for undergraduates, Ms. Koehler also noted that the racial and ethnic mix of high school graduates in the United States would continue to shift toward a more diverse population, with the number of Hispanic students increasing in particular.

“These are important data points for us to know as we consider our recruitment strategies,” she said.

Given the market, Ms. Koehler emphasized, it is important for students to have good experiences, which is reflected in students' decisions to stay at GW.

“The real measure of success is not who comes in,” she said. “The real measure of success is who leaves with a degree.”

To that end, the university has increased its focus on retention efforts, redirecting resources and engaging with colleagues across the university to develop new data-driven ways to support student retention.

“This is a really complex challenge and requires a true university-wide effort,” Ms. Koehler said.

Oliver Street, executive director of enrollment retention, said in his remarks that the university continues to delve deeply into data to understand why students may leave GW before they graduate.

He said engagement in and outside of the classroom, financial aid packages and seeing value in a GW education are key factors in whether a student stays at GW. Enhancing aid packages for certain populations, making sure students receive individualized advising and support and increasing opportunities such as affinity groups are all important initiatives to maintain and grow, he said.

In other Faculty Senate news:

  • President Steven Knapp read the recent university statement in support of undocumented students. Dr. Knapp also said he recently met with a group of students interested in entrepreneurship and said they bring a lot of “energy and ingenuity” to the university. An area in Tompkins Hall will soon be dedicated to incubator space for students.
  • Provost Forrest Maltzman informed the Faculty Senate about the petition submitted by SEIU Local 500 to organize undergraduate resident advisors for purposes of collective bargaining. He noted that the resident advisor program is an important part of the GW educational program and stressed his concern that the peer-to-peer mentorship between students that is the hallmark of the program could be jeopardized through federally mandated collective bargaining. He said that even though Local 500 ultimately withdrew the subpoena it included with its petition requesting the disciplinary records of the undergraduate resident advisors, a union’s involvement could impact the confidentiality of student records. Looking forward, he said, a union’s involvement also could affect the sharing of information between residents and resident advisors. Dr. Maltzman said he is making himself available to meet with RAs to discuss any questions or concerns they have about unionization and the resident advisor program.
  • Joseph Cordes, chair of the Faculty Senate’s Fiscal Planning and Budgeting Committee, gave an update on university finances. Dr. Cordes said the university in fiscal 2016 achieved a positive operating margin as a result of fiscal controls and enrollment growth—which officials said was ahead of schedule—but will continue to face both fiscal challenges and uncertainty.
  • Charles Garris, chair of the Faculty Senate Executive Committee, said the Board of Trustees has been proactive in engaging with faculty throughout the presidential search process and has “clearly demonstrated” its belief that faculty involvement in the search is essential.