According to The Chronicle of Higher Education, Georgia State University has emerged as the “leader of the pack” in using predictive analytics to help develop strategies for increasing retention and graduation rates among its students.
Nice job, GSU, but you’ve got a long way to go before coming close to the level of performance achieved by Flazmore College, a small, private institution located in Bamberg, South Carolina. Over the past decade, Flazmore has raised its four-year retention rate from 27% to a remarkable 98.7%. In other words, 98.7% of Flazmore’s freshman class are still there when senior year arrives.
How can such an accomplishment be possible? To explore this question, University Life interviewed Flazmore’s President, Dr. Penelope Dwange.
Dwange: “How is it possible? The answer is simple. Once students get here, we don’t let them leave.”
Dwange: “All of our students live on Flazmore’s beautiful 750-acre campus. Everything they could possibly want while they’re in college is right here, so there’s no reason for them to leave — not even for school vacations — before they finish their degree. We’ve hired Blackwater, a private security services contractor, to monitor the perimeter of the campus in order to prevent students from wandering off.”
UL: “What happens if a student can no longer afford Flazmore’s fairly hefty tuition?”
Dwange: “Not a problem. We offer a comprehensive work-study program that employs students throughout the College, including on our farm. Last year, our 20-acre cotton field produced an average of 963 pounds per acre, one of the highest yields in the state. We couldn’t have done that without our student workers.”
UL: “Can financially needy students really earn enough from their campus jobs to pay their entire tuition bill?”
Dwange: “Usually not. That’s why we’re okay with a student not graduating in four years if they’re behind in their payments. Our eight-year retention rate is 81%, and we’re very proud of that.”
UL: “What happens if a student doesn’t have a high enough GPA to graduate after four years?”
Dwange: “Once again, not a problem. At Flazmore we don’t give up on students. If their GPA at 120 credits is below the 2.5 threshold needed for graduation, we just keep them here, taking courses, until they get to 2.5. We have a number of students in their mid-50’s who started at Flazmore when they were 18 or 19 years old. Some of them have accumulated over 1000 credits but still haven’t achieved a 2.5, though a few are really close. We’re confident that they’ll get there eventually.”
UL: “You mentioned that Flazmore’s 4-year retention rate is 98.7%. What about the remaining 1.3%? Do these students escape from the campus?”
Dwange: “Well, they try to.”
UL: “Do any of them succeed?”
UL: “Are you saying that after they’re caught, they are…….”
You can judge Flazmore College harshly if you wish, but you can’t deny that this is a school that takes retention very seriously.