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Undergraduate students decline by 372 while freshmen retention rises 2%

The total headcount of graduate and undergraduate students on main campus has decreased by 361 since spring 2013, according to numbers released by University officials Tuesday.

While there are 2,386 graduate students this spring, an 11 person jump from this past spring, undergraduates decreased by 372, totaling 13,323, according to the data.

The numbers were released when the semester hit day 15 as of Monday.

From fall 2013 to spring 2014, 91.5 percent of freshmen were retained, according to Joe Frizado, vice provost for academic operations and assessment. This is approximately a 2 percent jump from fall 2012 to spring 2013, when 89 percent of freshmen were retained.

“We’re pleased with the retention rate from fall to spring,” said University Spokesperson Dave Kielmeyer. “We’re hopeful that carries over to the fall [2014].”

Frizado accounted for the slight drop in undergraduates since last spring by citing a smaller, but smarter, freshmen class this past fall. Another factor, Frizado said, is the economy.

Frizado said the University makes significant efforts for early intervention to students who are struggling either financially or academically in an effort to retain them.

University President Mary Ellen Mazey also announced a tuition freeze in December for next academic year to ease students’ financial burden.

When asked for data comparing the University’s 15 day numbers to other similar state colleges, Frizado said that’s not a statistic they track. He also said the data didn’t reflect any anomalies in respect to which majors lost or retained the most students.

Retention from fall 2012 to fall 2013 was 70 percent. Based on enrollment numbers now, Frizado said he expects a slight increase (one or two percentage points) in retention from fall 2013 to fall 2014.

The University has ramped up efforts on a number of fronts to increase retention. These include linked courses, a system that automatically enrolls freshmen who have declared a major in three courses with others in their major, and the Learning Commons, which is a tutoring center located in the library.

The University is also in the process of finding a person to take over advising, another important factor in retaining students, Frizado said.

Frizado said he and University officials take steps to find out why students leave. Often, they contact students who leave or transfer over phone.

“You want to find out where the problems are to address them,” Frizado said.

One commonly cited reason is the economy, he said.

“Sometimes that’s used as an excuse for other reasons,” Frizado said, explaining that students won’t always admit when they leave because they miss their significant other or are homesick.

Sophomore Tierra Evans said she knows as many as seven students who have transferred since this past fall.

The three main reasons, Evans said, were to reduce costs, to find a school with their desired major and to find a school closer to home.

Evans considered transferring after her first semester as a freshman. She started out as an engineer technology major, and thought about switching to a school with a more renowned program.

In the end, she stayed once she switched her major to Human Development and Family Studies.

“I prayed about it a lot,” Evans said. In the end, “I liked the community I was around.”

Each student has to find his or her own place in the college life, Evans said, and for some, that may mean leaving the University for one that best meets their needs and for others their place may be here.

“It’s a personal journey. I think there are a lot of really good programs here,” Evans said. “It’s about finding your niche.”

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