Retention of students from freshman to sophomore year is at 86.8%, an all-time high on the university’s Oxford campus, with some students crediting academic programs and quality of life outside of class as reasons they continued attending the university.
Ellie Gorham is a sophomore social work major pursuing a five-year master’s program.
“I love the school, and I have a really good support group,” Graham said. “The social scene on campus is awesome, and the classes are super interesting.”
Louis Perotti, a sophomore biology major, agreed that the quality of Ole Miss’ academic programs solidified his place here.
“I just thought the classes were structured well, and the professors are really nice,” he said. “It challenged me enough to where, like, I didn’t think I needed more of a challenge, but it also wasn’t too easy.”
Kyle Ellis, director of the Center for Student Success and First-Year Experience (CSSFYE), credited the increase in retention rate to many different areas on campus.
“It’s not just one area,” Ellis said. “It’s many people all on campus pulling that retention rope in the same direction.”
The previous record of freshman-to-sophomore retention was 86.5% in 2014, and the CSSFYE has continued to uphold its “high-touch” philosophy, in which valuable, interpersonal connections are forged between staff and students, since its establishment in 2013.
“We don’t just say, ‘Oh, go call a 1-800 number. Oh, go see financial aid,’” Ellis said. “We make referrals to specific people.”
The CSSFYE works closely with students to not only advise them but also help with common issues that interrupt a student’s education, including homesickness, health issues and academic probation. They can refer students to retention grants, loans and even emergency funds to ensure that their collegiate careers stay on track.
The CSSFYE is always refining its methods for retaining students by analyzing data and peer institutions.
“I think now we’re starting to look at ways to be more efficient,” Jeffiner Fos, assistant director of retention in the CSSFYE said. “Rather than just continuing to do more, we’re trying to see what’s actually working and seeing what’s high-impact.”
Gorham and Perotti said that football games and the Grove have been some of the standout moments from their freshman year that improved their Ole Miss experience. They expect to continue to get more involved in the years to come.
“It’s a family,” Perotti said. “Even though you don’t know people, you meet people from around the country that I didn’t think I would ever meet being at a school in the South.”