Executive Summary: Analysis of Fall-to-Fall retention at Western over the period 1987-1997 reveals modest improvement in retention rates, some traditional patterns, and some surprises. Particular groups are identified by the analysis as highest priority for university attention aimed at increasing retention. Western's overall Fall-to-Fall retention rate increased steadily from 1987 through 1992, then leveled off, to remain stable or decline very slightly since then. In particular, the retention of entering freshmen rose markedly from '87 through '92 and has declined significantly since 1992, although remaining well above its earlier rate. While the early rise in retention may be attributed to increasing selectivity and improved freshman orientation, the subsequent reduction in retention is more• difficult to interpret. What we can say is that Western's freshman retention, while higher than nearly all our peer institutions, could be higher, given the composition of our freshman class. For entering transfers, however, no improvement in retention has been observed over the ten year period. In fact, retention of new transfers is markedly lower than of new freshmen, despite the fact that most transfers are in their junior years--a time when retention tends to be high. Further, over half of new transfer non-retention involves leaving prior to Spring of the first year, rather than after one full year, which suggests that experiences during Fall are especially powerful for transfers. Retention among African-American students has increased dramatically, by a total of nearly fifteen percentage points, over the past ten years. Retention for this group is now at a par with the majority group. However, retention among Native Americans and the small group of foreign nationals who matriculate here remains considerably lower than for the majority. Two surprise findings are that students who enter Western in quarters other than Fall, especially in spring, have lower than average retention rates and that students who have freshman standing in Fall quarter but are not entering in that Fall have lower retention rates than newly entering freshmen. Among the small group for whom these two factors overlap, retention is extremely low.
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Subjects - Topical (LCSH)
College attendance--Washington (State)--Statistics; College dropouts--Washington (State)--Statistics
Title of Series
Technical and research reports (Western Washington University. Office of Institutional Assessment and Testing) ; 1998-05
Simpson, Carl, "Ten Years of Fall-to-Fall Retention, Western Washington University" (1998). Office of Survey Research. 493.