Positive momentum, retention at Finlandia

Kali Katerberg/Daily Mining Gazette Finlandia President Philip Johnson speaks on the university’s future plans at an update for community partners Wednesday.

HANCOCK — Finlandia University is reporting improved retention and other positive markers but sees even more opportunities ahead.

The university gave the update and detailed future plans in an update for community partners Wednesday.

Enrollment is up almost 14 percent and retention almost 20, said Erin Barnett, dean of Students & Enrollment.

That translates to 458 students for the university, 151 of which live on campus. With a new push for U.P. student enrollment through the U.P. commitment grant program, 27 percent of current students are from Houghton County.

“We really made a decision in the last couple years to incentivize students who are residents of the UP to attend Finlandia,” Barnett said.

To aid with retention, Finlandia has been tackling the “summer melt,” which describes students who commit to a university only to change course over the summer. So far, marketing has been the number one method, trying to keep the students engaged before their arrival. As a result, the “melt” is at the lowest rate in the last five years, Barnett explained.

“That tells us we’re finding the kind of students that have a commitment to education and to attending Finlandia and willing to follow through on this and hopefully that will continue to bear our in our retention numbers,” she said.

She sees these developments as indicators of positive movement, demonstrating the momentum and energy on campus.

President Philip Johnson stressed the importance of growing community confidence in the university and preparing students for graduation. Focuses include emotional intelligence and flexibility.

To that end, Finlandia is currently working on a market research initiative with Ruffalo Noel Levitz to have data about academic programming for future decisions. Key areas include degrees that work well for online courses and programs in demand among students.

In other updates, the unoccupied floors of the Jutila center have seen traction with possible purchase in the future. Meanwhile, the Old Hancock Central High School’s conversion into the College of Health Sciences has a current timetable of operating programs out of the building in fall of 2020.

“We are going to make sure it is restored to its glory and it is bringing economic vitality to the downtown as well as serving the educational programs we have here at Finlandia,” Johnson said.