Retention data are derived from a special database maintained in the Office of Institutional Research and Assessment.
Retention and graduation studies use a methodology involving the formation of a cohort. The cohort for a given year includes all students who entered with the stated characteristics (e.g., first-time, full-time students). No students are added or subtracted from the original cohort across the six-year report cycle. The percentage of students from that cohort who are enrolled is measured each subsequent fall as a whole and also for various breakouts of students.
Although no students are added or subtracted from the cohort, there are special circumstances that affect the calculating of the retention and graduation rates. If a student is deceased or called for active military duty, they are subtracted from the denominator starting with the year of status change. For deceased students it remains in effect the entire reporting cycle and for military activation until the activation is withdrawn.
It is important to realize that the freshman data do not make statements about the persistence or graduation of all our students. They report only on what happens to a specific group of students—those entering as first-time freshmen in each year looked at separately from all other students at UMass Dartmouth. Furthermore, these data do not represent degree completion across institutions. Many of the students who cease to attend UMass Dartmouth go on to complete a degree at another institution.
Retention and graduation data are often used to compare the “quality” of institutions. However, regional mission and student demographics most strongly affect retention and graduation rates — factors such as academic preparation, economic stability, and dependency status — not students’ specific experiences while in attendance.
Notes on the Retention Rate
The one-year retention rate reports how many freshmen have persisted into the second year (fall-to-fall comparison). Freshmen in each cohort are those matriculating that fall, entering with no college credits, and registering full-time in their first semester, per requirements for federal retention reporting. Such a group is sometimes referred to as “first-time, full-time” freshmen. A retention rate is then shown each subsequent fall, specifically counting all of the students in each original cohort who were registered that fall (regardless of full-time status).
Once students begin to graduate from a cohort, two rates are shown. The main data show the number of students persisting added to the number of students graduated, because “retention” is defined as either being still enrolled or having graduated. The number in brackets shows those who have graduated.
Notes on the Graduation Rate
The graduation rate is the percentage of entering full-time freshmen who graduate from the same institution within 150% of the normal time for the student’s program. This is shown as a six-year graduation rate for four-year programs. In our tables, the graduation rate appears in the column furthest to the right, shown in brackets because it is entirely comprised of graduated students. The very small number of students who might still be persisting toward their degree at that point are not included and so show as a retention “loss.”
The effect of retention losses on the graduation rate is cumulative. Furthermore, one's graduation rate is most markedly influenced by factors well back from the present. The largest single drop tends to occur between the first and second year.