By: Rene Howard-Paez, Staff Reporter
In 2010 Dominican had its largest freshman class – 427 students. Although this was considered a feat for the university, it created a lot of work for faculty, staff and students
The big question is this: how many will come back?
A student’s first year can make or break their choice to stay at a college. Dominican is trying to make sure that more students stay.
Dominican has a good rate of retaining students. Over the last four years, about 85 percent of first-time freshman students have returned the next fall.
These numbers stack up nicely against comparable schools.
Concordia University Chicago has a 71 percent retention rate and Aurora University 73 percent, compared to Dominican’s 85 percent.
Dominican is making an effort to retain as many first year students as possible. A retention committee was formed in 2007, when Dominican took its first large dip in returning first year students.
The retention committee is composed of about 20 people, ranging from professors to staff in student affairs and residence life.
Norah Collins, Associate Dean of Students, heads the committee.
“We aim to learn from others’ realizations and perspectives on how to better support
students,” Collins said.
The retention committee tends to focus on first-generation college freshman, since they are the first from their family to attend college.
Despite Dominican’s good retention numbers, the atmosphere of the school might magnify the effect of the few students who do leave, Collins said.
“Dominican is centered on relationships and community, and when a few students leave it may have a large impact on that student,” Collins said.
Sophomore Alexander DaCruz considered leaving Dominican because of the size.
“At the time I felt that the small environment was more of a weakness than a strength,” DaCruz said.
Other groups on campus are doing their part to help students like DaCruz stay at Dominican.
The office of undergraduate admissions starts by looking at the type of student they are recruiting.
“We need to recruit students who welcome and strive in an environment that is close-knit or relationship centered,” Glenn Hamilton, the Assistant Vice President for Undergraduate Enrollment said.
Students are also part of the fight to try and retain first year students.
Portia Anderson is one of many peer advisors, a new group formed by academic advising that aims to help students in their first year.
“We do not directly focus on retention so to speak, but we do emphasize connecting the first year student to the resources on campus which can be an aspect of retention,” Anderson said.
Although still highly experimental, the peer advisors play a crucial role in the Dominican experience of those students that choose to interact with them.