Oakton Community College Boasts Highest Student Retention Rate in Illinois
National Center for Educational Statistics reports Oakton retains more students than any other community college in Illinois.
According to the U.S. Department of Education's National Center for Educational Statistics (NCES), Oakton Community College has a student retention rate of 74 percent, the highest of all community colleges in Illinois.
Michelle Brown, director of recruitment and outreach for Oakton Community College was pleased to learn that the retention rate was so high at OCC and announced that the college has implemented programs to further increase the retention and graduation rates.
"Students attend Oakton for a variety of reasons," she said. "Some may want associates degrees but many others just want to save money on a few college courses or to take a few developmental classes to brush up on some skills. Our goal is not to keep students here until they complete an associates degree but rather to keep them here until they have met the academic and career goals they have set for themselves."
One major change in college policy is that all students are now required to attend orientation sessions prior to starting coursework. Furthermore, all students are now required to meet with academic advisors. Students who haven't met with an advisor during their first semester are blocked from registering for additional courses until they meet with one.
"Students are assigned a specific academic advisor that will remain assigned to them as long as they attend the college," explains Brown. "This is a practice that while common at four year colleges, isn't so common at community colleges."
Brown said that prior to this policy change, students would make course registration decisions on their own and many ended up taking classes they didn't need or courses they weren't prepared to handle. "This new policy is intended to help us be more proactive with our students rather than have to be reactive when they make uninformed academic decisions," she said.
To further assist with student retention, the college appointed Sebastian Contreras as Oakton's first ever director of student success.
Other suburban colleges had high retention rates as well. The following is a list of suburban Chicago colleges and their respective student retention rates.
Morton College: 71 percent
Harper College: 69 percent
Moraine Valley: 67 percent
College of DuPage & College of Lake County: 66 percent
In comparison, the seven city colleges of Chicago averaged a student retention rate of just 48 percent.
Although retention rates for previous years were not immediately availale, Trudy Bers, executive director of Institutional Research, Curriculum and Strategic Planning at Oakton Community College, stated that the retention rates for the college have remained pretty stable and consistent throughout the years.
Retention rates can give a short term snapshot of an institution's quality of education and services. Students who are having their educational and career goals met at an institution will generally remain at that institution. On the other hand, students who don't like the institution they are attending will tend to transfer out or otherwise leave the institution.
However, other factors can affect retention rates. For example, during the 2009-2010 academic school year, the Illinois legislature cut off educational grants for thousands of students statewide. As a result, many students were unable to afford to return to their institutions. Therefore, in future reports many institutions will show a general decline in their retention rates for this year.
Brown credits "low tuition rates, the ability to attend both Oakton campuses and good customer service" as some of the reasons why students chose to attend and remain at Oakton.
"Students are initially hesitant to attend our college but once they experience everything we have to offer, they generally return for a second year although that may not have been their original intent," said Brown.