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Clarion University Improves Retention Rate by 5% with Research Insights

Clarion’s institutional research team wanted to understand what factors enable students to succeed at Clarion.

The Challenge: Improve Student Retention

Ray Moneta, Director of Information Management and Institutional Research, is responsible for submitting Clarion University’s (Clarion) institutional data and mandatory compliance reporting to the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education (PASSHE) and the federal government. In need of manpower to tackle all of Clarion’s research requests, Moneta partnered with Hanover for additional support.

Clarion’s priority is to retain top student talent. To improve retention, Moneta’s institutional research team wanted to understand what factors enable students to succeed at Clarion. He commissioned Hanover to track the institution’s newest freshman cohort, emphasizing minority and first-generation college populations.

Research Goals

  • Increase student retention and enrollment
  • Expand high-demand program offerings

The Solution: Identify Predictors For Graduation and Retention

Hanover analyzed Clarion’s student data from 2006 through 2011 to assess which demographic, institutional, and academic variables were the most useful predictors of four-year and five-year graduation and second-, third-, fourth-, fifth-, and sixth-year retention. Analysts developed multiple analytical models that assessed retention factors, predictors of conditional retention, and the likelihood of on-time graduation.

Hanover determined that a student’s high school ranking is a strong predictor of retention and graduation. As such, Clarion should strive to improve these student success metrics by increasing its admission rates of higher-ranked students. Additional report findings regarding Clarion’s historical retention trends and the specific student qualities that may be predictive of retention and on-time graduation are outlined below.

  • High school students in the top 10% are 19% more likely to be retained than students ranked in 75–50% of their class.
  • Minority students are 12–19% less likely to be retained and 11% less likely to graduate in 4 years.
  • A 1-point increase in first-year GPA translates to a 3–4% increase in retention and a 15% increase in 4-year graduation.
  • Athletes are 3–6% more likely to be retained in their third or fourth years than non-athletes.
  • Failing fundamental math and English subjects can cause an 8–18% drop in retention.

Clarion Research results


The Outcome: Adjust Services and Programing For Vulnerable Students

Moneta and Clarion’s administrators discussed the report when evaluating the institution’s current and historical challenges for ensuring retention and encouraging graduation. After reviewing the data, Clarion’s administrators identified current service gaps and created new programs to target vulnerable student populations better. Administrators implemented several retention-focused initiatives, including:

  • Developing programs explicitly focused on the success and retention of new freshmen;
  • Investing in data-based software and resources intended to further student persistence efforts and
  • Establishing new support services through the Student Minority Affairs Office geared towards the success and retention of minority students.

The Value: A Lean Team With Research Power

With Hanover’s support, Moneta and his lean team have become more effective in fulfilling the data requests of Clarion’s President, Provost, other university departments, and the PASSHE Chancellor. Moneta stated:

“Hanover helps our team learn how our practices can be enhanced. Through the research, we are able to take action and make the right choices for our institution.”

Ray Moneta

Director of Information Management and Institutional Research

Clarion is also assessing the viability of new credentials of interest, as well as degree programs that might need to be re-evaluated following market trends. During the institution’s year-long, fixed-fee partnership engagement, Moneta has tasked Hanover to perform market evaluations, program demand analyses, and workforce demand studies. After taking Hanover’s report on student demand and the labor market outlook for engineering degrees into consideration when expanding its current program portfolio, the institution plans to move forward with two new engineering credentials.

Clarion University will continue to apply Hanover’s research when supporting the success of its current students and when making critical internal decisions regarding future program expansion initiatives.

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The Client

Clarion University of Pennsylvania is a public institution that was founded in 1867.


Information Management and Institutional Research Department

Hanover Solution

Data analysis and qualitative research

Drive Positive Student Outcomes

Hanover provides student success insights to identify at-risk students—and the support they need most.

Additional Services Provided to Clarion University

Market Evaluations

Program-specific analyses into your areas of interest, your Hanover team helps you contextualize program viability through market factors like the competitive landscape and job opening trends.

Program Demand Analysis

Examines critical elements of new academic program viability (student demand, labor market demand, and market saturation) to quantify the feasibility of a degree program offering.

Workforce Demand Studies

Uses interviews with employers and industry experts to uncover skill gaps, labor market trends, and employer perceptions of your institution to help shape an academic program portfolio that is in line with employer needs.

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