Over the last year Cabrini has seen more and more students leave the college after freshmen and sophomore years.
“Persistence and retention is my highest priority but not that it’s my work, it’s all of our work,” President Marie Angelella George, said.
Last spring, student development ran focus groups with freshmen in hopes of learning student expectations for their first year, which ones were met and where students felt their experience fell short.
“This was a rich source of information which allowed a whole series of retention initiatives to come forward,” George said.
The administration, along with George, have defined characteristics of successful Cabrini students and clustered them into key areas: where they get involved and engaged in campus life, how they become academically invested, how they take responsibility for themselves and how they build their character.
“We know this is a very strong community here. Students’ experiences are transformational from where they start to where they end up,” George said.
Other issues George addressed were tuition, the strategic plan, fundraising and financial aid.
In a time of economic uncertainty and recession, Cabrini students have faced yearly increases in tuition ranging from 3.4 percent to 14 percent.
“These are tough economic times, not just for Cabrini, but for all colleges and universities from the most elite to those who are really struggling institutions,” George said. “Cabrini is an expensive college. But we are not the most expensive in the region, and from what I can see increases in the years before I arrived were relatively moderate.”
In an exclusive interview with Loquitur, President George emphasized her desire to not change Cabrini but to bring into fulfillment the strategic plan.
“I think if there’s an element that I bring to my presidency and that’s expected of my work into the future and consistent with the strategic plan is to work on a road map through 2012 that addresses qualitative changes here at Cabrini,” George said.
George emphasized a number of changes that she feels are vital to the future of Cabrini, specifically the college’s endowment.
“Important to me and my presidency will be to grow our endowment. That’s critically important. That way we will have a greater ability to offer more financial aid to our students,” George said.
George said that in a time of economic recession students and their families must be patient but the Cabrini administration is doing everything in its power to help with student finances.
“The packaging of student financial aid is taken very seriously but it’s difficult. Ninety six percent of our annual budget, the budget that runs the college, is fueled by the tuition of our students,” George said. “We are a tuition-dependent institution. And by directive of our trustees 38 percent of every tuition dollar goes back to students to assist them to afford our tuition. And 98 percent of our students receive some form of financial aid.”
In George’s first month on campus, she has made a realignment of the admissions enrollment area, putting it in academic affairs. She also hired a vice president of institutional advancement, Ken Boyden and a director of student diversity initiatives, Melissa Waters. George is supporting Cabrini’s new general education curriculum.
“I certainly support the general education curriculum, which I believe is unique in all of higher education and will be piloted this year with a 100 students to be fully operational next fall,” George said.
George will address the Cabrini community on “shorter term initiatives” Wednesday, Aug. 27, at the all-college meeting. Her inauguration is scheduled for Nov. 15.