Are Retention Rates Important at Online Colleges?

Since recent survey results have found that as many as one-third of all first-year college freshmen do not go back to the same school for their sophomore year, many prospective students are now placing a stronger emphasis on online college retention rates when selecting their programs.

As a vital gauge of any higher learning institution’s success, retention rates provide the percentage of students who remain at the college after beginning their studies. While the reason a student leaves a school can range from family problems to financial obstacles, new evidence suggests that students should be wary of online colleges with very low retention rates.

Read on to learn more about just how important it is for students to select online colleges that have a high retention rate for taking great care of their freshmen.

Importance of Retention Rates at Online Universities

Besides telling students the percentage of freshmen students who stay, freshmen retention rates can provide a plethora of other information about an online college’s success at educating students through distance learning. The highest retention rates showcase how satisfied freshmen were with their first-year college experience, thus indicating that the college creates an enjoyable environment for learning. Online college retention rates also suggest that students were able to earn the credits and the grades they needed to return, which can mean that the school’s workload is appropriately manageable. Furthermore, retention rates at online colleges particularly demonstrate that the school is able to build a supportive learning atmosphere.

Reasons to Beware a Low Online College Retention Rate

When an online university has a very low freshmen retention rate, it often signifies that the school admitted too many students who were either unprepared for college-level studies or were unsure of the studies they wanted to pursue in higher education. Along with showcasing that unhappy students did not find the major they truly wanted to work towards, low retention rates may indicate that students lose financial aid assistance following the freshman year and cannot afford the hefty price tag to remain in the program. Online college retention rates can also provide evidence that the school fails to provide the tutoring programs, experiential learning experiences, social interaction, learning labs, and other support services.

How to Find Your Online College’s Retention Rate

Although many schools now advertise their current freshmen retention rate on their website, others with a lackluster retention rate may go to longer lengths to keep the telling statistic a secret. If you are having trouble finding your prospective online college’s retention rate on their website, you are encouraged to use the College Navigator from the National Center for Education Statistics. When you type in your school’s name, you will receive a lengthy compiled list of statistics gathered by that college, including its retention rate. Whenever you discover that an online college loses more than one fifth of its first-year students, you are encouraged to contact the university’s admissions staff to inquire further about this less than stellar number.

Overall, freshmen retention rates can be extremely helpful indicators of an online college’s performance in successfully meeting the academic or personal needs of its student body. While it is very important to take retention rates into consideration when selecting prospective online colleges for earning your degree, there are other essential criteria that will provide a lot more information than this single number will. Therefore, it is highly recommended that you weigh accreditation, faculty credentials, affordability, ranking, graduation rates, and student services alongside online college retention rates to find the best program that meets your learning goals.