University attempts to boost constant freshmen retention

Kelly Petryszyn

Grades, campus life key to improvement

Sophomore Isaac Latsko remembers his freshman year as the “best times” of his life.

“I remember me and my friend said hi to everyone,” the flight technology major said.

He returned to Kent State his second year because of his major and the people. He said he used to live in Eastway and had so many friends “it’s unbelievable.”

About 72 percent of freshmen, like Latsko, returned to Kent State in Fall 2008 from Fall 2007, according to statistics from Research, Planning and Institutional Effectiveness.

That’s down slightly from the previous year, in which 73.6 percent of freshmen returned to Kent State from Fall 2006 to Fall 2007.

Also, the amount of overall students who returned to the Kent campus reached more than 91 percent, 2.7 percent up from fall to spring retention of last year.

This increase is the result of a university-wide retention effort, said Eboni Pringle, interim director of student success programs. She also said the “entire university is understanding the importance of retaining students” and is working to do so.

Undergraduate Studies offers a variety of programs that aim to retain students.

“(We) try to be proactive and educate students from the beginning,” Pringle said. “If the things don’t work, (we) try to help students fix the issues.”

Save My Semester was a workshop created last semester to improve students’ low GPAs. In general, the 125 students who attended saw an increase in their grades.

Programs similar to this are held in Eastway, the First Year Experience learning community. Joel Bynum, senior learning community coordinator, said learning communities – such as Eastway – tend to have a higher retention rate of students.

“(We) host series in their living room,” Bynum said.

Resident hall directors invited students who received a midterm GPA of 2.0 or lower to meet individually with them. Fifteen percent of students with a GPA of 2.0 or lower took advantage of this. FYE also offers more programs and advising through the Eastway Outreach Center.

This semester, an attendance program was started that monitored student attendance in larger classes.

Pringle said the importance of this program was to show there is an increase in GPA when attendance in classes is consistent.

The Student Success Series, which offers more than 60 courses in issues that range from personal to academic, is another tool used to retain freshmen. Attendance to one of these programs is required through the First Year Experience course all freshmen have to take.

Teachers and student associates of the FYE classes do call-outs to have a personal conversation with the students to see how they’re doing.

Tori Green, freshman pre-occupational therapy major, who is in her first semester at Kent State, said the class benefited her in learning about her major, but she wished she had a chance to learn about other majors as well.

She hasn’t taken much advantage of the resources she learned about yet, but she said she would if she needed help.

Sometimes these retention efforts don’t work and freshmen don’t return, like freshman psychology major Nakesha Varner. She had her mind set on Ohio University and came to Kent State as a backup. She is transferring to OU in the fall.

“I liked the campus,” she said, and she has friends transferring with her.

Often, a lot of freshmen think they can make it through college on their own, but when students move up in years they see more of an impact of this programming and orientation, said Lauren Pernetti, academic coordinator of student success programs.

Latsko said, looking back, he thinks the guidelines set by his first year professors helped him.

“I would take what they say into consideration,” he said.

Contact student affairs reporter Kelly Petryszyn at [email protected].