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Economics Hurt Freshmen Retention Rates

This story was written by Andy Ouriel, The BG News

Bowling Green StateUniversity spends a lot of time getting freshmen ready for the school year with its many programs geared toward the class, but the time almost seems wasted with the amount of freshmen leaving after just one year.

According to the Office of Institutional Research, only 73.3 percent of freshmen from 2007-08 came back and enrolled this year.

The 26.7 percent of freshmen who decided not to return to the University this year continues a trend of three years where freshmen retention rates have decreased 5 percent over this time.

It is also the lowest rate of returning freshmen since the office kept records starting in 1972.

While these numbers might alarm some higher officials, one of the main factors contributing to this decline cannot be controlled by the University.

"We are in an unprecedented time in history in terms of economics," said Greg Guzman, interim vice provost of enrollment management. "If I had to cite one reason for students not returning, it would be the economic situation of our country."

Guzman said students are working more hours, trying to combat the high prices of education and along with helping their families with finances, many students cannot handle this workload.

To counter the economy and try to get as many freshmen back as possible, the University offers many programs, such as University 100, Springboard and First Year Success Series.

These programs help students transition into higher learning while accessing common problems experienced by freshmen, said Associate Dean of Students Jodi Webb.

"We always want the retention rate to be higher, but it's always a matter of looking at what can we do to meet the better needs of students," she said.

By not only establishing strong connections with faculty, but through social programs as well, a student will feel more comfortable and well-rounded, thus increasing their probability to stay at the University, Webb said.

But the answer is not always so clear cut, dealing with the question of why freshmen are not coming back.

Whether it's because of the economy, or struggles inside and outside of the classroom, it remains a mystery, said Bettina Shuford, director of the Center for Multicultural and Academic Initiative.

"There is no one specific issue to why students do not return and a lot of students won't give you the real reason as to why they will not return," Shuford said.

Through the Center of Mulitcultural and Academic Initiative, the staff helps guide students to the proper resources needed in order to succeed in their first year at the University, Shuford said.

These resources include getting students familiar with the various help centers [writing center], familiarizing them with available tutors and giving them encouraging words through counseling sessions when needed.

"If students get connected through campus, they are more likely to stay," Shuford said. "If [students] don't take advantage of resources, then some people will have a more difficult time navigating through campus. If they take advantage of it, we can help with their success."

Junior Desirea Scott agrees getting involved with campus activities can lead to making friends, thus helping out people who came to the University alone.

"The two go hand in hand," Scott said in reference to making friends in social environments. "It's vital for people to get involved with campus."

The percentage of freshmen coming back to the University in their second year

(UWIRE) -- 1998-1999: 78.3%

19992000: 78%2

000-2001: 77.8%

2001-2002: 74%

2002-2003: 74.2%

2003-2004: 77.9%

2004-2005: 79.1%

2005-2006: 77.1%

2006-2007: 75.9%

2007-2008: 73.3%

Source: Office of Institutional Research

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