Student access, opportunity and degree attainment are at the core of our mission. Faculty, staff and administration must be encouraged to work together across the institution to engage and support our increasingly diverse student body to achieve at the highest levels. Maintaining and advancing a college-wide commitment to students’ academic achievement, personal growth and well-being is essential to the success of our students and the future of the college.
Since 2015, total undergraduate enrollment has declined 13.5%, or just over 1000 students. For the fifth consecutive year, the number of returning students declined in 2019, and the rate of decrease has widened year over year since 2015. This past fall, enrollment declined by 3.7% and can be attributed to a smaller number of returning students compared to last year, as the number of new undergraduates actually grew.1
The following data are provided to support the Student Experience Team as they consider strategies for the next five years:
I. Our student body is growing increasingly diverse and we have more students who place more value on scheduling flexibility, accessibility, employability and affordability:
a. Twenty two percent of undergraduates are older than 25, as are 80% of graduate students.2
b. Eighty-six percent of RIC students live off campus.3
c. Forty six percent of RIC students are first generation college students who may need more financial, academic, and social support than a non-first generation student to graduate on time.4
d. Close to half of RIC freshmen (46%) and 44% of RIC seniors report spending at least some time during the week caring for dependents.5
e. Sixty-two percent of freshmen report working at least some hours off campus for pay during a typical week, while 79.5% of seniors do so. Twenty-four percent of freshmen and 43% of seniors report working 21 or more hours off campus during the week.6
f. Over the past decade, undergraduate students of color have increased by 108% from 19.2% to 39.7% of the student body.7 The graduate student body has experienced a similar increase.
g. Among students of color, Hispanics are the largest group at RIC, representing 21% of the undergraduate student body. Hispanic undergraduate student enrollment at RIC has increased by 120% since 2010. In addition, 10.2% of students identify as Black/African American representing a 35.6% increase since 2010. Three percent of RIC students identify as Asian, 2.2% as two or more races, 0.5% as American Indian/Alaskan Native, and 0.1% as Native Hawaiian/Other Pacific Islander. Fifty-seven percent of students identify as White, which is a 31% decrease since 2010.8
h. RIC has experienced an increase in registered students with disabilities. Currently, there are 983 active students enrolled in Disability Services, up from 376 registered students in 2008. Of the 983 active students, 767 students require academic accommodations and 214 require non-academic accommodations such as, housing, early registration, physical/mobility/access-related-parking, special furnishings, meal plan accommodations etc.9
II. Data indicate that we are experiencing challenges engaging and retaining students:
a. In fall 2018, 12.3% of total first-time first-year students and traditional transfers paid a deposit and did not enroll. In the Fall of 2019, the number fell to 9.6%. 10
b. In 2017, 27.2% of first year students did not continue to a second year, up almost 2 percentage points from the prior year. The continuation rate for 2018 is 74.8%. 11
c. As of September 2019, there are a total of 1699 (32.5%) active undergraduate students with some type of registration hold(s). Most registration holds are either Academic Advising or Financial holds. Of the 1,314 academic advising holds, 27.5% (361) are freshman students. Of the 902 financial holds, 40% are freshman students. 12
d. Concerning the academic standing of non-graduating students, within the 2012 FT freshman cohort (N=520), 94% were academically eligible to return (63% had a 2.0 or better, 31% had below a 2.0 but eligible to return, and 6% were dismissed).13
e. Approximately 60% of non-graduating students in the 2011 and 2012 full-time freshman cohorts departed in the first two years. 14
f. The problem of unmet need is constant at RIC. During Fall 2012, 75.9% of our undergraduates had some level of unmet need. In Fall 2019, 82.1% of undergraduates had some level of unmet need. With state and federal financial aid not keeping up with the costs to attend RIC, the average level of unmet need has risen 8.1% since 2012. 15
g. Of equal concern, 80.7% of first-time freshmen had some level of unmet need beginning Fall 2012. For Fall 2019, 91.1% of first-time freshmen had some level of unmet need. The unmet need gap for first-time freshmen entering RIC has increased 12.8% in just 7 years. 16
h. In 2017 and 2018 the college surveyed non-returning students to determine why they leave RIC. The results show that:
(i) Of the departing students, over a third intended to re-enroll the following term and 60.5% intend to re-enroll at some point in the future.
(ii) 23.4% of the non-returning students reported that they intended to go to another 4-year college and 6.3% reported that they intended to go to a 2-year college. 60% of the students who reported an intention to go to another 4 or 2- year college, actually attended another college at some point. The most common institution attended was CCRI.
(iii) The top reasons for leaving RIC, include:
1. Not enough financial aid (29.4%)
2. Personal problems (28.0%)
3. Family responsibilities interfered with studies (27.1%)
4. Tuition too expensive (26.5%)
5. Difficulty getting needed courses (20.5%)
6. Campus staff were not helpful (19%)
7. Work responsibilities interfered with studies (16.7%)
8. Not happy in major (13.3%)
9. Dissatisfied with the quality of teaching in classes (13.3%)
10. Unhappy with academic performance (13.3%)
11. Other reasons included, but were not limited to: didn’t feel welcome (11.4%), faculty were not approachable (11/4%), didn’t know where to go for help or support (10.0%), and accepted to another college they would prefer to attend (10.9%).17
(iv) 37.4% of departing students left without talking to any faculty or staff. 12.1% wanted to talk with someone but did not know with whom to speak. 29.3% spoke to faculty/staff and were neither encouraged nor discouraged to re-enroll in the spring. 15.2% spoke to a faculty/staff member and were encouraged to re-enroll, and 6.1% spoke to faculty/staff and were not encouraged to re-enroll due to money issues, lack of academic focus, and dismissal from program of interest.18
(v) When asked what RIC could do to encourage them to return, the answers included:
1. Offer more financial aid/reduce cost
2. Offer more flexible course delivery (more offerings on the weekend and more online options)
3. Increase course availability
4. Improve advising/guidance
5. Improve responsiveness/communication19
III. Issues of equity and inclusion impact student experiences among RIC’s diverse student body.
a. Fifteen percent (n=377) of student respondents to the recent campus climate survey indicate that they personally had experienced exclusionary, intimidating, offensive, and/or hostile conduct at RIC within the past year.20
i. There were no significant differences between respondents of Color (16%), Multiracial (18%), and White respondents (13%) who indicated that they experienced exclusionary conduct. However, significantly more Respondents of Color (37%), and Multiracial respondents (32%) than White respondents (6%) thought the conduct was based on their racial identity.
b. Thirty-one percent (n=486) of undergraduate students and 22% (n=64) of graduate students seriously considered leaving RIC within the first semester 44% (n=241) or second semester 48% (n=262).21
i. Undergraduate students’ reasons for seriously considering leaving are: Lack of social life (56%); Lack of sense of belonging (38%); personal reasons (e.g., physical health, mental health, family emergencies) 26%; and course availability (25%).
1. Among undergraduate students, non-transfer students were more likely to consider leaving than transfer students and Black/African/African American and Multiracial students were more likely to consider leaving than Hispanic/LatinX/AfroLatinX students. Concerning sexual identity, Bisexual and Queer-spectrum students were more likely to consider leaving than Heterosexual students.
ii. Graduate students’ reasons for seriously considering leaving are: Lack of sense of belonging (38%); Climate was not welcoming (36%); Scheduling difficulty (33%); and Course availability (28%).
1. Among graduate students, Multiracial students were more likely to consider leaving than White students and Disabled and First-Generation students were also more likely to consider leaving.
c. Six percent (n=162) of respondents indicated that they had experienced unwanted sexual contact/conduct while at RIC. This was defined as relationship violence, stalking, sexual interaction, and unwanted sexual contact.22
i. Of note, 36% of respondents indicated that drugs and alcohol were present.
ii. Undergraduate students most often experienced unwanted contact/conduct in their first year (43%).
iii. Unwanted sexual contact/conduct was rarely reported, as only 5 out of the 162 respondents contacted a RIC resource.
d. Thirty-six percent of all student respondents felt a sense of being pre-judged for their identity, with Hispanic/LatinX/AfroLatinX students more likely to feel pre-judged than White students and First-Generation students more likely to feel pre-judged than non-First Gen students.23
i. Only 64% of students believe that there is a process to field complaints of bias.
As we analyze these challenges, potential strategies to explore include: 1) better engaging students in and beyond the classroom; 2) improved enrollment management; 3) expanded career preparation and readiness supports; 4) increasing retention and completion; 5) creating an increasingly inclusive campus environment/climate; and, 6) better addressing the needs of our increasingly diverse student body including adults, first generation students, commuter students, and those with disabilities.
1 RIC Institutional Research and Planning Department Fall 2019 Enrollment Report. Page 1
2 Ibid. Page 2
5 RIC Institutional Research and Planning. 2019
7 RIC Institutional Research and Planning Department Fall 2019 Enrollment Report. Page 2
9RIC Disability Services Center. 2020
10 RIC Institutional Research and Planning. 2019
15 RIC Enrollment Office 2019.
16 RIC Enrollment Office 2019.
17 Institutional Research and Planning Department. “Insights from the 2017 and 2018 Administration of the Non-Returning Student Survey” August 2019. Response rate was 15%.
20 RIC Campus Climate Research Study. Rankin and Associates Consulting. October 2019.