A new administrative position is being put together to combat decreasing retention rates that have become a concern at UW-River Falls.
“The position is quite common in many private institutions and increasingly visible among public institutions,” said Provost and Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs Fernando Delgado.
“For us, creating the position signals the University’s and the Chancellor’s seriousness about building and sustaining our enrollment at a time when we are ever more dependent upon tuition and associated revenues.”
The retention rate that has been concerning administration has been slowly falling over the past five years at UWRF; last year, 68 percent of students were retained in comparison to the 73 percent that were retained five years ago.
Although the percentages may seem unreal, they resonate with other comparable universities in Wisconsin like nearby UW-Stout who experienced a 70 percent retention rate last year.
Reasons for this can vary, but Student Senate President Bobbi O’Brien, a transfer student herself, said that being involved was what helped her make a home at UWRF and that the “friendly atmosphere” only helped.
“I feel really attached to this school, so I feel involvement has plays a huge part,” she said.
O’Brien is a current member of a sorority and holds her presidency role with Senate.
She said one thing people could try to make UWRF their home as well is to get involved in something.
Delgado said other issues could be with the finance challenges of being enrolled in a four-year university and “academic preparation and adjustment.”
“We did observe that after tightening out academic probation and suspension rules two years ago we saw a nearly 10 fold increase in the number of students affected by the change,” Delgado said.
O’Brien said that while this tightening may have resulted in dropping out of UWRF, it also pushes students to succeed and encourages them to work harder, so it was not necessarily a bad thing.
This new administrator would sit on Chancellor Dean Van Galen’s council and report directly to the chancellor about how to increase enrollment numbers and retain the students who do enroll to build the success of the University.
While the position’s boundaries are not firmly established, that is the basic idea, said Paul Shepherd, director of Student Life.
A search and screen committee will be put together after the position is defined and officially posted for candidates to apply.
Shepherd said that this will be a national search to find the best candidate.
For O’Brien, the fact that this position is being created shows her how big of a concern this is for the future of UWRF.
As a student, she said that the different programs on campus are possible because of the size of the student body and that the diversity seen at UWRF in the variety of organizations, membership opportunities and personalities are “important to the student experience.”
With the number of students decreasing, so does the opportunities that are available now, said O’Brien.
Like any other search and screen committee put together on campus to bring in new professors or administration, it is required to have a student on the board to represent student interest in the search of a candidate.
O’Brien said that a good candidate to represent the student body in this decision would be someone who is dedicated to attending meetings and open-minded to the different candidates that may come before them.
Students interested in the position should contact Student Senate.