BARNESVILLE — For the past two years, Gordon State College has reported an increase in freshmen retention with a 3.3 percentage point increase for 2019 on top of 2018’s 10-point growth, according to a report released last week by The University System of Georgia.
The retention rate, an indicator for student success and satisfaction, for first-time full time freshmen for fall semester 2019’s cohort reflected 61.7% — the highest overall percentage for the college in more than 10 years. The improvement is noteworthy given the COVID-19 pandemic pivot to remote instruction and campus closing in March 2020 and faculty converting to delivering online courses to complete the academic year.
As a result, the Gordon State faculty spent the summer committed to completing the college’s certification process to teach online and 100% of the full-time and part-time instructors teaching fall semester 2020 successfully completed the training and certification process.
“We achieved one of our highest retention rates in several years, during COVID,” President Kirk A. Nooks said. “This is outstanding news and a tribute to the collaborative efforts of our faculty and staff. It lets us know we are making progress. We want to know our students, their stories and their aspirations. We want to value their comprehensive college experience. We are an incredible value and heavily invested in our 14-county service region with partners for internships.”
Provost and Vice President of Academic Affairs C. Jeffery Knighton said the efforts faculty members have made to retain students is commendable and aligns with the college’s strategic plan, which includes efforts to increase retention and graduation rates.
“At Gordon State College, we are committed to helping our students achieve,” Knighton said. “Our faculty has demonstrated their commitment to students as we ensure our graduates have The Highlander EDGE.”
The Highlander EDGE are noted qualities that set Gordon graduates apart: Engaged Innovators, Dedicated Scholars, Gifted Communicators and Ethical Leaders.
GSC data also reflected encouraging progress with students identified as under-represented and under-served populations. Retention among African American students increased for Fall 2019 to 58.4%, a jump of 16.5 percentage points within a two-year period from 41.9 in 2017.
First-generation students, defined as the first student within a household to attend college, showed significant retention gains in 2019 as well with 67.4%, a 23 point gain since 2017. These data points are key indicators that Gordon State is making remarkable improvements in student success, and these trends will also help build enrollment.
In 2018, Gordon rebuilt the New Student Orientation (NSO) process to incorporate academic advising sessions, which resulted in the Regents Momentum Year Award for Excellence in Advising and Student Success by the University System of Georgia. The combination of the improved NSO, including scheduling freshmen for 30 hours of credit within their first year, and the implementation of the mandatory first-year student seminar, FIRE 1000, contributes to the positive impact on freshman retention.