Clarion, Pa.- Enrollment at Clarion University’s main, Venango and online facilities dropped 368 students this fall, standing at a total of 5,712 students, according to William Bailey, dean of Enrollment Management at Clarion. This number is five students less than the predicted student count and is part of what Clarion University has seen as a steady decline in enrollment. New student enrollment the three locations decreased by 32 students, with an undergraduate return rate of 73.8 percent.
The undergraduate return rate has also decreased since its record high of 75.9 percent, but is close to the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education average. Clarion will see its largest classes graduate this year. The large freshman classes from 2009 2010 began graduating in spring of 2013 and continued in spring 2014 along with some who will graduate this fall. Bailey said there is always a fluctuation from year to year. No specific reasoning has been given as to why the enrollment numbers have continually dropped.
Bailey said, “The university has developed gaining students and retaining students investments that are currently being initiated. The university as a whole has lost students, both returning and new, but, we have developed several programs to help both new and returning students follow their path to success.”
Some retention efforts and programs that the school is using include Map-Works, SOAR program and Engaged Learner. Student Orientation Acclimation and Retention, more commonly known as SOAR, is an initiative of Map-Works aimed to provide first -year students with a tool for academic success. It all begins with a simple survey that is geared to examine both academic and social transition behaviors in comparison to a student’s personal expectations for themselves. Bailey added, “SOAR helps to identify students that are at a risk of leaving the school because they feel they are not adjusting well.
However, this survey helps faculty and staff to reach out to Continued on p. 3 these students and to help encourage them to reach their educational goals.” Some common SOAR activities include Discovery Weekend, a three day program designed to encourage first year and transfer students get involved in campus activities and interact with others. The Engaged Learner Program, as Bailey described it, “enforces communication between students and staff and faculty, provides mentors and is a resource for students to use to help achieve academically and socially. This program paid off according to last year’s retention percentages.”
In new admission materials, more information regarding high impact experiences that students can participate in has been added. Experiences such as study abroad, internships, or individual research are given more spot light attention. “How students and alumni talk about the university also help promote the experience here,” added Bailey, “and we want students who are considering Clarion or even who are currently attending to truly know everything we have to offer.” “Our main goal,” Bailey concluded, “will be to bring more new students in, but to also maintain or increase our retention rate with our current students. We want to invest our attention and dedication to all of our students, new and current, to help them be successful and ultimately reach their goal and graduate with us.”