All Stories

Carthage’s first- to second-year student retention rate reached an all-time high this fall, and a closer look shows major progress in the College’s commitment to wipe out equity gaps.

Among the first-year students who attended Carthage full time in spring 2023, a record 82 percent returned for the fall semester. And the statistical breakdown provides even more encouraging news.

This graphic highlights Carthage's retention rate (as of fall 2023) in comparison to national ave... The retention rate for students of color at Carthage climbed to 79 percent, just 4 percentage points behind white students. That’s the smallest gap by far since the College began tracking these figures.

The gains are especially noteworthy for Black students at Carthage, whose retention rate rose to 82 percent this year — matching the College’s overall percentage. Hispanic students followed closely, with 76 percent returning for year two.

All of those figures stand well above the national averages, according to the most recently available (fall 2022) data from the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center.

Following the glowing reports about midyear retention last spring, this is another promising sign for Carthage’s bold commitment to eliminate race- and income-based disparities in retention and graduation rates by 2030.

“Our faculty and staff have worked extremely hard to identify and remove barriers that impede students, and these early indications show what’s possible,” says Abigail Hanna, vice president for administrative planning and innovation at Carthage. “Ultimately, the numbers tell us a lot of promising young students from different backgrounds are primed for success, which makes the results especially thrilling.”

The College’s leadership role in Moon Shot for Equity, a national initiative that pools the expertise of participating schools and education advisory firm EAB, served as the catalyst for this ambitious goal. Over the past couple of years, Carthage has taken major steps to give students a smoother path to a degree:

Retention funding

The staff now proactively reviews every student’s personal and financial circumstances each year. Qualifying students automatically receive a Firebird Retention Scholarship to help make up the difference. Already, more than 350 students have benefited.

Pre-orientation program

Even before the general New Student Orientation, the Office of Equity and Inclusion holds an annual Carthage-Bound camp to help new student-athletes of color acclimate to the college setting. Initially offered to football players, the program expanded this fall to include members of the men’s soccer team.

Affordable textbooks

Slingshot, which takes over as Carthage’s bookstore provider in 2024-25, will offer an equitable access program. Paying an affordable flat fee, participating students can have all of their required textbooks and course materials delivered to their residence hall room or home before classes begin each semester.

For its diligence, Carthage received the 2023 Leading Colleges Retention Award. Leading Colleges LLC, an organization founded by Teege Enrollment Services, selected only 25 colleges and universities nationwide for “ensuring a measured focus on student retention.”