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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    “Students cite distance from home, finances as reasons for departure”

    The UA has an 80 percent retention rate of freshmen and sophomores, which is higher than previous years, but still short of the university’s goal, administration officials said.

    The UA has sustained a consistent level of retention for freshmen and sophomores, but is striving to increase the retention rate to keep up with other public universities, said Patti Ota, vice president of enrollment management.

    “”We are doing quite well with retention in terms of the students we are recruiting, but compared to schools such as the University of North Carolina, ours is still very low,”” Ota said.

    As of early spring 2005, the UA had a 77 percent retention rate, according to the strategic retention master plan.

    “”We would love to see the retention rate at 85 percent, but that number is not achievable in the short term,”” Ota said.

    Increasing the retention rate in a short time span is difficult because it is hard to pinpoint why students leave, since their reasons include personal, academic and financial problems.

    “”Certain groups of students have more pressure than others, especially for non-resident students,”” Ota said. “”It’s harder to keep non-residents because they have to balance academics and family.””

    Family is why one non-resident student left the UA.

    “”I felt like I didn’t really fit in with the people, which made it hard to focus on academics and it was also extremely far from home,”” said Gina Folin, a former pre-communication freshman from Pennsylvania. “”I was going to wait until the fall to transfer, but I realized how pointless it is to stay somewhere that isn’t making me happy.””

    Retention rates are valuable because they protect the reputation of the university.

    “”When students leave and are dissatisfied, it’s like having dissatisfied customers and it portrays the university in a negative light,”” Ota said.

    The UA’s retention rate is published in the U.S. News and World Report magazine, which influences to university’s ability to keep students.

    In addition to affecting the university’s reputation, student dropouts affect the UA financially as well.

    “”The UA spends a lot of money to recruit students, but when we lose the student, the money spent is also lost,”” Ota said.

    Paying for tuition and other school fees also puts a lot of pressure on students and is often a reason why they leave.

    “”I couldn’t get a lot of classes I needed and I wouldn’t have been able to graduate in four years, and my parents did not want to pay for an extra year,”” said Alanna Chatfield, a former pre-communication freshman.

    But in order to keep students in school, the UA is making an attempt to help them financially.

    “”We try to make it affordable and accessible for students to stay and we have renewable merit awards for students maintaining a 3.0 GPA,”” Ota said.

    In accordance with a UA retention project, every student who decides to leave sits with a counselor to discuss their reasons.

    “”We try to find the reason and help them stay,”” Ota said.

    There also is a re-admission plan for students who leave and wish to return.

    In addition to retaining the freshman-to-sophomore level, UA administrators are making a push to get all students to graduate.

    “”Retention is very important, but most important is graduating,”” Ota said. “”We are working hard to make sure they graduate in four, five or six years.””

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