Despite unprecedented events impacting the world, the University of West Georgia continues to confidently move forward in surprising ways. Not only did enrollment climb for fall 2020; student retention numbers have increased as well.
In fall 2020, 13,419 students enrolled at UWG, according to the University System of Georgia: an increase of 1.4 percent from fall 2019.
Retention percentages – calculated based on incoming first-time, full-time students from the previous year – are tracked each fall, as well. From fall 2018 to fall 2019, student retention at UWG was 69.07 percent, and from fall of 2019 to fall of 2020 it rose to 72.82 percent.
That increase of 3.75 percentage points is a “big step” for UWG, Dr. Jon Preston, provost and senior vice president for Academic Affairs, said. He cited improvements and enhancements to operations for the increase, as well as the leadership of Carrie Ziglar, director of the Center for Academic Success.
“I appreciate the strategic direction that Ziglar and her team have provided to strengthen our efforts in retaining students, which has made a significant contribution to our growth over the past year,” Preston said. “UWG is reaching out to students to support them as part of our ongoing approach of always putting students first.”
Ziglar attributes the retention success to some changes in processes, more personal interaction and outreach to UWG students.
“Advisers now use a process for tracking their students and can quickly identify what they know about them,” Ziglar said. “A lot of retention is dependent on building relationships. You have to know your students.”
Dr. Brendan B. Kelly, president of UWG, said he is proud of the retention numbers and is looking ahead to further triumphs aided by the university’s efforts to retain students each year.
“The success of students is always our top priority at the University of West Georgia,” Kelly said. “We work every day to ensure they are engaged in the richest university experience possible both inside and outside the classroom. This retention increase is a sound indicator that our efforts are bearing fruit. Now, with our new Momentum Center joining the processes we have put in place over the past year, we feel confident our numbers will continue to rise.”
Dr. André Fortune, vice president for Student Affairs and Enrollment Management, commended Dr. Jennifer Jordan, associate vice president for Student Affairs and Enrollment Management, for leading the creation and continued operation of the center.
“Like the model we’ve established at UWG Newnan, we put many critical resources in one building on the Carrollton campus, and the Momentum Center is a game-changer for our students,” Fortune said. “We are thrilled to provide our students with a premier, centrally located hub where they can go to find answers to any question and solutions to any need.”
Jordan credited the retention increase to the work done by UWG’s academic advisers, who helped students build schedules that met their needs during the pandemic.
“At the Momentum Center, we are able to offer students access to the resources they need – including academic advisers – to stay in motion and be successful during their higher education journey,” Jordan said.
Student retention is exceptionally important for the prosperity of a university, and Ziglar said the key is to set goals and implement actions that deliver noteworthy results.
“All institutions set retention goals because every department on campus relies on it,” Ziglar said. “If students are satisfied and things are going well, they are more apt to stay.”
Photography by Julia Mothersole