Winthrop president sets sights on student retention, diversity, enrollment growth

Increasing diversity on campus, growing enrollment and retaining students are some of the goals Winthrop University leaders have through 2025.

Winthrop President Dan Mahony shared recent successes and a look into the school’s future Tuesday during his fourth annual State of the University address.

The Winthrop Plan, the university’s strategic plan that was launched in 2016, is designed to increase enrollment, retention, student success, diversity and fundraising, The Herald previously reported.

At Winthrop, 64% of students in 2019 graduated within six years, with the majority of students graduating in four years or less, Mahony said. This is above the university’s 2025 goal and the first year Winthrop has exceeded 60%.

“That is something we should be particularly proud of,” Mahony said.

At 91%, the university also exceeded its 2019 goal for placing students in graduate school, military service or jobs, Mahony said.

“We want to continue to grow the success of our students after they leave us,” he said.

Winthrop hopes to increase total enrollment from 5,864 students in 2019 to 7,000 students in 2025, Mahony said.

Online courses and programs aimed at working adults are some ways Winthrop plans to attract new students, he said.

“We continue to look at new opportunities and new programs to build on ones we have done over the last few years,” Mahony said. “Programs that will bring students to Winthrop that would not have come otherwise.”

This year, Winthrop expanded its exercise science laboratory space with a 4,500-square-foot facility at University Center in the Knowledge Park complex near campus.

“This will allow us to continue to provide an outstanding education for exercise science students as well as to continue to grow a program with quite a bit of interest,” Mahony said.

Last year, Winthrop saw a record number of new student applications with more than 6,000, Mahony said. The trend continues this year as the university has received 425 more applications than this time last year.

“The interest in Winthrop has never been greater,” Mahony said.

However, Winthrop has not met its 2019 target enrollment of 6,000 students, partly due to early graduations and the challenge of keeping students at Winthrop, Mahony said.

Winthrop’s one-year retention rate for first time, full time freshmen dropped from 75% in 2018 to 70% in 2019, Mahony said.

“One area we definitely need to focus on is retention,” he said.

Mahony also aims to continue increasing diversity on campus. The university saw an increase in the percent of minority students from 40% in 2018 to 42% in 2019. The college looks at the percent of students who self-identify as African-American, Latin American, Native American, Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander, Asian, two or more races or international.

“We’re a public university and we should reflect society. We should reflect the people around us,” Mahony said. “I don’t see this just as a goal, I see this as an obligation as an institution. We should be welcoming to all students.”

Mahony said the university also focuses on ensuring diverse candidates are reached when it comes to hiring faculty and staff. In 2019, Winthrop had 21%, up from 18% in 2018, of faculty and managerial staff who self-identify as African-American, Latin American, Native American, Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander, Asian, two or more races or international.

“It’s the process that really matters. At the end of the day, we always hire the best employee, but we know there are biases in the process,” Mahony said. “The more we can reduce or eliminate those biases, the more likely we are to have diverse candidates and the more likely we are to have diverse employees.”

Mahony also pointed to accolades Winthrop has recently achieved. Winthrop ranked 17th among colleges in the South on U.S. News and World Report’s 2020 edition of “Best Colleges.” Winthrop ranked 25th in the previous edition, Mahony said.

“We continue to be seen very favorably by our peers,” he said.

Mahony said Winthrop’s faculty and staff are to thank for the university’s success.

“I’m very proud of what you all have accomplished,” he said. “Thank you for all that you do for Winthrop.”

Details of the Winthrop Plan are available on the university’s website.

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Amanda Harris covers issues related to children and families in York, Chester and Lancaster County for The Herald. Amanda works with local schools, parents and community members to address important topics such as school security, mental health and the opioid epidemic. She graduated from Winthrop University.
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