From the moment a student steps on campus at Wayne State College, the educational journey becomes a personal experience.
“We want to interact with these students on a regular basis to check on how their classes are going, their resources, the roommate situation, attendance, anything that might be an issue with them. Seeing all these things at play within their lives and getting to know them at the granular level is how we understand the needs our students have,” said Jay Collier, director of college relations at WSC.
It’s also one of the key components that has resulted in the soaring growth in enrollment and graduation sustained by the college for the fifth consecutive year. With the arrival of another record freshman class of 801 students, enrollment has now grown 24%, including a 56% growth in the graduate programs since 2017. The number of students on campus has increased by 384 since 2020, for a total enrollment of 4,249, with significant increases in the number of degree-seeking individuals. The four-year graduation rate has improved by 3.5% and the school has maintained a 73% retention rate for students moving from their first to second year of study, a critical period in the career of a college student. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, the average retention rate for open enrollment public four-year institutions like Wayne State is 61%.
According to Collier, the sustained growth in enrollment and retention is also due to the college constantly reviewing and adding to its academic programming to reflect the needs of the incoming students. New pathways this year include a range of concentrations including Film Production and Theory, Sports Media and Supply Chain Management for undergraduates, as well as Human Resource Management and Supply Chain Management focus areas for the MBA program and Special Education Supervision. Campus improvements include the renovated Benthack Hall and two state-of-the-art education labs.
“It’s a very competitive landscape, especially in this heightened time of the pandemic and the resulting economic fallout,” Collier said. “We’re extremely proud that we have been able to sustain such high numbers within this environment. If you don’t have a nimble staff and flexible advisers to help students with their immediate needs, it’s really easy for them to fall behind. From our perspective, it’s essential for the staff and faculty to understand the students, what they are experiencing at any given time and to have the capability to adapt at a moment’s notice.”
As part of an enhanced advisement model introduced this academic year, freshman students are assigned an adviser who works with them on an ongoing basis throughout each semester on career coaching, peer tutoring, class selection and more. During the transition to sophomore year, students are then assigned an individual faculty member within their major, who will continue the advisement process through graduation at Willow Bowl.
“We are not in a ‘sink or swim’ mode here,” Collier said. “We want every single student ‘swimming,’ so to speak. It’s important to have someone willing to see them as a person, understand who they are, what they are about and where they want to be once they begin their careers.”
For Collier and colleagues, making it personal is the only way to experience the transformational power of a college degree.