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Rensselaer Doing Better Than Many Area Schools in Student Retention

One of the big concerns of Rensselaer alumni, current and prospective students, and parents is student retention: how many students who complete their freshman year return for their sophomore year. Student retention is discussed in an article in today's Philadelphia Inquirer called Many freshmen rethink their college choices. The article says:

... It's usually not until this time of year, long after tuition checks have been cashed and teary farewells have been exchanged, that freshmen break the news to their stunned parents:

You know that school I worked so hard to get into? I hate it. I want out.

Call it the freshman churn, the students who bail before sophomore year. Most first-year students stay put, but in every class an antsy minority switches schools, spurred by homesickness, a creepy roommate, social anxiety, geographic shock, or financial or academic concerns. The place is too small, too big, too cold, too remote.

The story is about students from the Philadelphia area and students who've been attending Philadelphia-area schools, but it's quite interesting. It includes the student attrition rates (the percentage of students who leave) of many area schools.

I thought it would be interesting to compare the attrition rates of the schools mentioned in the Inquirer article with that of Rensselaer. Sorted from lowest to highest with lowest being best:

  • Haverford College 1.2%
  • U. of Pennsylvania 2%
  • Swarthmore College 3.6%
  • Villanova U. 6 %
  • Rensselaer 7.6%
  • Bryn Mawr College 8%
  • St. Joseph's U. 10.8%
  • Rutgers U. 11.5%
  • Penn State U. 14.8%
  • LaSalle U. 16%
  • Temple U. 16%
  • Drexel U. 20%
  • Philadelphia U. 26%
  • Lincoln U. 31.7%

(Sources: Student attrition figures from college admission offices, reported in Philadelphia Inquirer article. Rutgers and Penn State figures for all campuses combined. Penn State figures for 2003-04 freshman class. Rensselaer retention published in Institute plans new initiatives for undergraduate programs, Rensselaer Polytechnic, September 28, 2005. I subtracted the published retention rate from 100 to get the attrition rate.)

If you want to help us put together a picture of how RPI is doing compared to the schools that we compete directly against, feel free to do some research, and post any statistics you find as comments to this story. Please include the URLs for any web pages that illustrate the numbers that you cite.

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