Recruit & Retain (Metropolitan College of New York)

New Faces, New Spaces

It’s not enough to just recruit students. You must also retain them. Delivering a positive education experience that entices men and women to remain in college — and complete a degree or certificate program — benefits the students, the school and the communities we serve. This is true for colleges and universities throughout the United States.

Metropolitan College of New York (MCNY) in New York City has recently joined the ranks of other colleges and universities that are investing in new campuses to better serve current and future students. At MCNY, 67 percent of our undergraduate enrollees are women, and the average age is 32. These adult learners are committed to completing their full-time education, but many also have full-time jobs, children and a host of other obligations.

And although these students are highly motivated, they are juggling a tremendous amount of responsibility, which makes it contingent upon us to provide a supportive learning system and empowering environment. That’s why MCNY is dedicated to assessing and addressing the numerous factors that affect both recruiting and retention.

A Smart Move

For the first time in our 50-year history, MCNY has moved from rented facilities to new permanent locations in the Bronx and downtown Manhattan. This shift away from rental property provides our school with financial stability, enhances programmatic offerings, offers greater flexibility in space utilization and provides correlating economic development — factors that will ultimately have a positive effect on our students as they strive to achieve their academic and life goals.

While it’s easy for those in an organization to get excited about the celebratory aspects of a new facility — open houses, ribbon cuttings and tours — our leadership was determined to not let the student transition become a secondary focus.

Because administrators took a proactive approach to retain current students, in spite of moving to two new locations in less than six months the retention results were better than expected. Here’s how we did it.

Gaining Early Buy-In

In addition to Town Hall meetings with MCNY’s president, students were given the opportunity to don a hard hat and take part in administrator-led tours of the unfinished facilities. Seeing the new facilities first-hand translated into increased support from students and staff alike.

The most important element of the plan was to share our enthusiasm through consistent, clear communication to the student population. Knowing that education doesn’t occur in a vacuum, we delivered regular updates about how the moves would affect the quality of life from both academic and non-academic aspects. Student-centric communication includes:

  • campus features and locations;
  • maps of the areas with points of interest, parking and eateries;
  • information about accessible subway lines;
  • the option for earlier-than-normal registration; and
  • multiple reminders to complete financial aid forms ASAP.

When I came on board in February as MCNY’s vice president for Enrollment Management, the college had already implemented its plan to retain students through the move. This made it easier for me to be “keeper of the sheep while moving the herd,” as well as using the appeal of new campuses to recruit new students. In spite of the fact that neither new facility was finished, we were able to incorporate the excitement about our transformation into recruitment advertising, media relations and events.

We shared our “purpose-centered learning and constructive action” approach with prospective students, assuring them that this model will continue… but in a beautiful new facility that is better equipped to meet their needs.

Conveying the Culture

With convenient transit options, proximity of restaurants and other points of interest, we believe that our new locations will appeal to our nontraditional students who have busy lives outside of school. This culture of caring contributes to greater student success.

The focused efforts of college administrators, staff and faculty to successfully retain and recruit in the midst of a complex move — within a condensed timeframe — demonstrates that strategic, contingency and creative planning can result in a positive outcome.

This article originally appeared in the issue of .

About the Author

Collette Ann Garrity, Ed.D., is vice president for Enrollment Management at Metropolitan College of New York (, a not-for-profit, accredited, independent college offering highly motivated adult learners an education that combines applied skills with professional knowledge to effect personal transformation and positive change in the workplace and community.