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Indiana University of Pennsylvania’s student retention rate is up to 70.05 percent, IUP Vice President for Enrollment Management Dr. Patricia McCarthy told the university’s Council of Trustees Thursday.

That’s as of this week, and it’s up from 64.69 percent retention from the fall of 2017 to the fall of 2018. The university has set a goal of 80 percent retention by the fall of 2022.

“We need to do what we can to keep our students in IUP,” McCarthy said during a report for the trustees’ enrollment management committee.

As pointed out by Trustee Enrollment Management Committee Chairwoman Joyce R. Fairman in her report to her colleagues about McCarthy’s presentation, “much hard work has been done by the university-wide Retention and Persistence Committee to boost these numbers as well as the persistence of all our students.”

And it all goes along with continued efforts to stem a decline in enrollment for credit programs from 15,379 in the fall of 2012 to 11,325 this past fall.

As of this week, the university has received 9,944 completed freshman applications (up 717, or 7.7 percent, from a year ago), but 499 completed transfer applications (down 54, or 9.8 percent).

Admissions total 9,206 among incoming freshmen (up 702, or 8.3 percent) and 400 among transfer students (down 26, or 6.1 percent).

The university reported receiving deposits from 1,912 freshman applicants (down 209, or 9.9 percent) and 226 transfer applicants (down six, or 2.6 percent).

McCarthy also noted a trend identified by many schools and consulting teams, showing students paying their deposits later and making deposits along with applications to multiple schools.

Among would-be graduate students, there are in “high demand” programs, such as psychology, safety sciences, higher education, speech pathology and English composition, 434 completed applications (down 14 from a year ago) and 143 admissions (down eight).

In “non-high demand” programs, there are 600 applications (down 45) and 510 admissions (down 12). That brings the total of those signed up to seek post-bachelor’s degrees to 1,034 (down 59) and those admitted to 653 (down 20).

“A new undergraduate admission partnership with (Education Advisory Board), Deposit IQ, (gauged students’) intention of enrolling at IUP and, if not IUP, the school they are planning to attend and the reasons for that decision,” according to Fairman’s report.

As illustrated during McCarthy’s presentation, the top six schools for “no” students who responded to a survey were Penn State, Slippery Rock, West Chester, Bloomsburg, Temple and California, two state-related universities (Penn State and Temple) and four of the 13 other Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education institutions.

In the non-credit Academy of Culinary Arts those signed up for new baking/pastry programs help to keep the total number of would-be students up from a year ago. Not counting baking and pastry students the total of admissions would be down from a year ago.

PASSHE is predicting a continued decline in the number of high school graduates in Pennsylvania, especially after 2025.

“The next few years are going to be challenging for all of higher education,” Indiana University of Pennsylvania Council of Trustees Chairman Samuel H. Smith said, “especially in the Northeast and western Pennsylvania.” But the council chairman also sees, along with the challenges, “there are a lot of good things going on we can all be proud of.”

Among them, as Fairman pointed out in her report on McCarthy’s presentation, are the events held each semester by the Career and Professional Development Center as part of a Career Ready Seminar Series.

“Three of the events include networking with an employer,” according to the Enrollment Management Committee report. “A successful attendance of 677 students attended the fall events, and 780 students attended the spring events.”

Fairman and McCarthy said skill sets gained by students participating in those events “are intended to set our students apart from the competition in the job market by providing employer-desired soft skills that will partner nicely with the excellent education provided in the classroom.”

McCarthy is among the IUP administrators taking leadership roles in connection with PASSHE’s System Redesign effort, IUP President Dr. Michael A. Driscoll said during his report Thursday.

Others are Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs Dr. Timothy S. Moerland, Interim Vice President for Administration and Finance Susanna C. Sink, and Associate Vice Provost for Undergraduate Student Success Dr. Michele Norwood.

Driscoll said he continues to have a role in System Redesign, “having been elected to another year’s term as leader of the Council of Presidents” of the 14 state-owned universities.

The IUP president said his 18-month listening tour is underway, including meetings so far with deans and other faculty, staffers, “and a nice range of student groups.” Driscoll expected to have more meetings this summer with students who choose to stay in Indiana.

He also talked of plans for a new brand platform for IUP, calling the idea a “north star,” pointing the way as a bridge between “who we are today” and “where we want to be in the future.”