Student retention and graduation rates are all on the rise going into the fall 2020 semester. 

“Back in April, we were thinking [enrollment] was going to be 20% down, and that’s what we were planning for,” said Mary Parker, vice president for enrollment management. 

Enrollment dropped by 3.1% for the fall 2020 semester. Projected enrollment numbers are tracked by comparing the number of students registered to attend from April of 2020 to the number from April of 2019.

“It is not just the continuing students, the students who are already here, but also our new class, the freshmen who are coming in,” Parker said.

In preparation for the drop in enrollment, staff members who made more than $38,000 a year and were not represented by a union took pay cuts, as well as faculty and staff who voluntarily relinquished their employment with the university. State funding was also reduced.

“It is our entire campus coming together,” Parker said. “Really working to make sure that, not only did we bring in our freshman class, but that we kept our students here.”

Student retention rates rose, while the freshman class and international student population decreased. 

“With COVID, the political situation, travel bans and also financial hardships on our international families, that’s where we saw the largest impact,” Parker said. 

The emergency grant fund worked to help students who were already enrolled when the pandemic hit. In total, the grant received 9,624 applications and gave out over $10 million in aid.

“We had students who were currently enrolled in the spring semester who had been impacted, who needed assistance,” Parker said. “That was who we needed to take care of first, and then we started looking at registration.”

Graduation rates rose 3.6% from the previous year, and Parker attributed that to President Diacon’s ‘students first’ mentality.

“Our focus, and President Diacon’s focus on students first, on completion, is paying off. We are seeing increases in retention. We are seeing increases in graduation rates,” Parker said. “We know we are getting students to the finish line.”

The national average for college completion rate is six years, which Kent State’s graduation rate is 65.6%. Kent’s four year rate is 49.5%. 

“Our students are working, they may have families that they have to work to support, and that’s why they graduate in six years,” Parker said. 

“Our president [Diacon] did a great job of making sure Kent planned for the worst but worked for the best, and that motto got us to where we are as far as enrollment,” Parker said.

 Megan McSweeney covers administration. Contact her at mmcswee2@kent.edu.

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