Approximating Underrepresented Minority
(URM) PhD Student Retention:
A Quick and Dirty Tool
The importance of student retention is well known but computing actual student retention rates, which involves tracking cohorts of individual students over time, is expensive and time consuming. There is, however, a fairly easy way to compute an approximate rate of annual student retention. It is based on the assumption that 100% retention means that the only students who leave the program are those who graduate.
Say, for example, in 2007/08 there were 233 URM PhD enrollees, 22 of whom received PhDs. In 2008/09 42 new URM PhD students enrolled. If there were no dropouts, then the number of 2008/09 URM PhD enrollees should be 253 (233-22+42). To get an approximate retention rate, the actual number of 2008/09 URM PhD enrollees, in this case 242, is divided by 253, the 100% retention number. In this example, which used data from an AGEP institution, the retention rate was 95.7%. In brief:
|Approximate Retention||=||2007/08 URM PhD Enrollees - 2007/08 URM PhD Recipients + 2008/09 New URM PhD Enrollees
2008/09 URM PhD Enrollees
It is important to note that this tool does NOT involve tracking cohorts of individual students and will not give you an exact rate. It will, however, give you approximate year-to-year student retention rates and trends. While this tool was designed to look at URM PhD student retention, it can be used to approximate student retention for any group of students at any level. It can be used to approximate retention for URM students or for students in general. In addition, it can be used at the departmental, school, or institutional level. Since places may define new PhD enrollees differently, this tool shouldn’t be used to compare across departments, schools, or institutions.
To use the tool: