Thursday, September 13, 2012

Pursuing Success: Rangers, Rankings & Retention

Last night, Marsha and I took our granddaughter to her first Texas Rangers game. It was a fun time. As you can imagine with a not-quite-three-year-old, Linley was in motion the entire game. A Josh Hamilton homerun gave her the opportunity to enjoy fireworks and to say sometime in the distant future that she saw a Hall of Famer hit one of his many homeruns.

It is simple to rank order major league baseball teams. Each team plays by the same set of rules with the singular goal of scoring more runs than the opponent. It is much more complex to rank order universities. Universities can have such vastly different missions and define success in very different ways. Reporting one university to be "ranked higher" than another is inherently a questionable task. Nevertheless, prospective students give attention to college rankings and so we must also be interested in what they imply about LETU, especially to those who don't know us well.

This week, U.S. News & World Report again ranked LeTourneau University in the top tier among "America's Best Colleges" for the 19th consecutive year. We ranked 6th among Texas "Regional" schools, and 36th among all western regional campuses across 14 states from Texas to Alaska.

The ranking includes LETU with universities such as Cal State-Sacramento and West Texas A&M - campuses with very different missions than us. Yet, we can learn some things from these rankings.

Take for example the percentage of students we graduate in six years. Among the 35 colleges ranked ahead of us, only two (New Mexico Institute of Mining and University of St. Thomas) graduate fewer students. According to U.S. News, only 48 percent of LETU students will graduate in six years.

We can do better. Our mission compels us to do better. That's why I was most impressed by our student retention performance in our official enrollment numbers which are just now being finalized. The percentage of our freshmen who returned for their sophomore year increased from 74 to 79%.

Better graduation rates begin with better first-year retention rates, and we've made big progress over the last year.

Congratulations to the many of you who have been helping our students be successful, persist and graduate.

Next week promises to be a great week for LeTourneau University. Monday we will have a major announcement during chapel and a groundbreaking celebration at 11:45. I encourage as many of you who can attend to be there.

Classes on campus are canceled until 3 p.m. Monday for the campus-wide celebration on the mall where there will be lunch and games for all. It will be a day to celebrate our God who has assembled us here for such a time as this.