C&IS Posts Record Retention Rate for 2019-20 Freshman Class

Dec 3, 2020

C&IS Living Learning Community students attend class in their residential community, John England Jr. Hall.*

The College of Communication and Information Sciences (C&IS) is pleased to announce that—through the collective hard work of faculty, staff and C&IS supporters—it has achieved 90.3% first-to-second-year retention rate among the Fall 2019 cohort.

This means that 90.3% of the Fall 2019 C&IS first-time, full-time students returned to The University of Alabama for the Fall 2020 semester. The retention rate breaks the University’s institutional goal of 90% retention and continues a positive trend of steady increase at C&IS in the past four years, an overall increase from 85.4% in 2016.

“It’s impossible to attribute this success to any one specific variable,” said Dr. Sara Hartley, associate professor and associate dean for undergraduate studies and external relations at C&IS. “But I am confident that our efforts in recruiting highly qualified students, centralizing academic advising for the first two years, and our additional outreach and engagement opportunities for students have made a tremendous impact. This shows us that the intentional work is paying off in a big way.”

In other words, a collective effort from a variety of internal and external C&IS supporters made this possible.

For more than 5 years, C&IS freshman and sophomores have received academic advising support through the College’s three professional academic advisors, part of Tisch Student Services and External Relations. Furthermore, Tisch takes a holistic approach in advising all C&IS students and works to support students in the classroom and beyond the classroom.

Additionally, C&IS works tirelessly to enhance the student experience through its nationally recognized student organizations, travel programs and professional development workshops. On top of this, the College recently launched a living learning community and Freshman Interest Groups (C&IS FIGs) to provide even more opportunities for the first-year student population. Combine all of these things together and the results speak for themselves.

Lastly, strengthening these areas of institutional support, C&IS donors have been tremendously impactful in their generosity. The notable increase in scholarship support ensures that some of the students who face financial challenges are able to remain enrolled.

These results also come as a bit of a surprise as some had predicted nationwide retention rates to fall this year due to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic. Not only did the retention rate see a notable increase from last year, the pattern appears now to be holding steady for Spring 2021 with numbers similar to what C&IS saw in the months preceding Fall 2020.

When a high school senior leaves home for their freshman year of college, they lack a full picture of what their first-year experience will be like. The recruitment brochures and the on-campus visits are tremendously helpful in filling in the gaps, but they won’t truly know what it’s like to be on campus until they’ve spent a full year there. First-year-to-second-year retention rates are meaningful indicators of a positive student experience because they indicate that the student has completed their first year on campus and decided to return for the next chapter.

“We love to see retention rates increase and hold steady because these numbers represent individuals with unique stories and personal, academic goals,” said Hartley. “Returning to C&IS for their second year demonstrates that these students trust this institution to help them achieve these goals on their path to the extraordinary.”


*This picture was taken in Fall, 2019—prior to Covid-19 precautionary measures.