Retention the focus of university town hall

University President Sidney McPhee spoke in the Parliamentary Room in the Student Union about the program for retention. Photo by Minh Tri Phan Chau.

By Mychal Wilson
Staff writer

President McPhee presented ten key points for increasing the retention rate at the university in a town hall meeting this week.

The number of graduates is down to 51 to 52 percent, down from 56.1 percent three to four years ago. Although retention has fallen, it is still above the national average of 49 to 50 percent.

Success is born and nurtured in the classroom, he said.

“What happens in the classroom is the key,” McPhee explained. “We can provide beautiful facilities. We can do good advising and mentoring, but what we really need to move this needle is the relationship, the partnership, what happens between the students and faculty.”

Although instructors are essential in creating a productive environment, they are only part of the overall solution, he said.

Advising is important, and the university will continue to work on ways to improve this process, according to McPhee. One solution he proposed is to help students from application to graduation. More focus will be put on helping faculty and advisers work together to make sure students are getting the best education experience as possible, he said.

Several faculty and students attended the Town Hall meeting in the Student Union Building. Photo by Minh Tri Phan Chau.
Several faculty and students attended the Town Hall meeting in the Student Union Building. Photo by Minh Tri Phan Chau.

“We’ve all signed up, in this business, we’ve all committed ourselves in this profession to do the best job we can to help students reach their goals,” McPhee said.

Increasing the size of the freshman class was another important point McPhee discussed during the meeting. Without freshmen, there would be no one to graduate, he said.

The university will continue its efforts in recruiting high-school seniors, but McPhee said that more determination is needed in retaining the students already enrolled.
One of the primary issues of retention is finances, McPhee said. Many students work full time as they pursue their degree and experience difficulty going to school full time as well. Other students find it becomes too expensive and drop out because they cannot afford the tuition.

Increasing the efficiency of the advising process will help to ensure that students take only the classes they need and in the order they need to take them. Students will then no longer take courses they do not need and will not have to repeat ones they do, McPhee said. This will save students money and help them be more successful in the ones they need.

We can look at other universities to see what has been successful for them, McPhee said. There is no need to re-invent the wheel.

Expanding dual enrollment with high-schools in Middle Tennessee and recruitment of transfer students and streamlining the enrollment process are other ways McPhee suggested the school’s retention rate.

Recruiting and retaining students through graduation is ongoing and administrators will continue to look for ways to improve and promote a positive student experience.

“There is no cookie cutter solution,” he said. “There is no one single solution that will fix these problems.”

The next town hall meeting is scheduled for Thursday from 2-3 p.m. in the Parliamentary Room of the Student Union Building.

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