Despite the numerous complications of living in world impacted by COVID-19, returning students continued their educational journey at Worcester State at a slightly higher rate this fall than in 2019. Returning students responded to stepped up retention outreach from all parts of the University, according to Vice President for Enrollment Ryan Forsythe.
“Faculty and staff really engaged with students this spring and summer to find out what was needed, in both the short and long term, to encourage them to persist into the fall,” says Forsythe.
Returning students blunted the impact of fewer new students enrolling this fall as compared to 2019. A significant drop in transfer students brought total enrollment down 7.5 percent for fall 2020.
The effort to keep current students engaged started shortly after the University pivoted to fully remote learning, when 100 volunteers called more than 4,500 students to check in and see how things were going . Volunteers were provided a script with specific information to cover, including reminders on advising and class registration, but the main focus was on starting a conversation. The same type of outreach effort is planned for this fall, and a recent call went out for faculty and staff volunteers.
“We saw how a personal call or email really made a difference to students and parents to show we care deeply about our students and want them to succeed,” says Forsythe. “It was a mammoth effort, but one that was clearly worth it. We hope to have the same response this fall from volunteers in our campus community.”
Counselors in the Academic Success Center also reached out to students, especially after class modalities were released over the summer. They worked with students to adjust schedules to match their preferred way of attending class—on campus, blended, or remote. The center also sponsored drop-in virtual academic advising via Zoom and created a new “Ask a Lancer” peer program, which connected a student with a peer to walk through online formats and help prepare for the fall semester.