University aims to lower attrition rates and increase admission standards

Category:  News
Wednesday, May 3rd, 2017 at 4:42 PM

Since his arrival last July, Edinboro University President Dr. H. Fred Walker has been focused on “rewriting the DNA” of the university. In doing so, one of the focuses has been on the retention of current students, and one of the first steps the university has taken is increasing the admissions standards, in hopes to decrease the current acceptance rate from its 95.3 percent.

Dr. William Edmonds, vice president for enrollment management, who took his position in January 2016, said the admissions office was discussing increasing the standards before Walker began as president and the working groups were formed, but it was “all so close that it meshed well together,” he said.

According to research from the working groups, the second-year attrition rates (percentage of students who did not return to Edinboro after their freshman year) from the years 2004 to 2014 have fluctuated, but typically have stayed around 30 percent. In fall 2004, it was the highest at 33.1 percent, while in fall 2008, it was the lowest at 24.8 percent.

Most recently, according to the data, the second-year attrition rate in fall 2014 was 30.2 percent, compared to the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education’s average total of 21.9 percent.

Edmonds said the admissions office tries to reach out to students by visiting high schools to create and foster an interest in Edinboro. Then, when the student applies, the university looks for “success factors and characteristics that will meet our admissions criteria.”
“We’re hoping that through the admissions process, looking at characteristics of past successes and implementing them for today’s students, that (this) will provide the beginning phase of retention,” he said. “We’re hoping to grow our enrollments through retention by admitting a student body from day one that is better prepared to succeed. I think it’s a disservice if we admit a student who is not 
prepared and then they don’t persist and they’re not retained.”

Edmonds emphasized the admissions office wants to foster the relationship between the university and its students.

“We’re here to support our students so they do stay,” he said.

When asked why he thinks the attrition rate is so high, Edmonds responded that students have a myriad of reasons as to why they leave the university. Some are financial, but many are personal.

Despite the following cases, Edmonds said students do not often want to share their personal reasons for leaving.

Fall 2014

What follows are student stories of the “why” behind leaving Edinboro and contributing to the attrition rate.

Former Edinboro student, Allison Kitts, said she left Edinboro because she got pregnant and knew she needed to work more than go to school during that time. She also wasn’t sure which degree she wanted to pursue, so she thought it was best to take a break.

Now, Kitts works at Erie Insurance as a policy servicing specialist.

“I think as a commuting freshman, it was really hard to make friends,” she said. “The only time I was around people was in class, and there was limited time to get to know someone.

She continued: “I think if they had more events for everyone to go to besides orientation, it would have been easier to meet people. They had events for on-campus students, but you never really got the details as a commuter.”

Kitts said while she attended Edinboro, she liked the environment. Additionally, she thought everyone at Edinboro was very friendly and the professors were “super casual, but still did their jobs efficiently.”

Fall 2014

Former student Rachel Beckman left Edinboro after her freshman year because she did not like the campus, and she knew since she was unhappy being there, she wasn’t taking her studies seriously.

Now, she studies pre-nursing at Valencia College in Orlando, Florida.

“There was really nothing the school (Edinboro) could have done to make my time there better. It was all just personal things I disliked because I knew I wasn’t where I wanted to be,” she said.

The school she attends now has several campuses over the Orlando area. Beckman thinks this is beneficial because “you can take classes at any campus you like.”

“I love how diverse the campuses are and the professors are all extremely helpful and really want you to succeed,” she said. “I’ve yet to have a bad experience in my classes down here.

It’s a lot different from Edinboro because the campuses are a lot bigger and more students attend classes here, however, it’s not a bad thing that it’s so different.”

Beckman said one of the things she loved about Edinboro was knowing a lot of people who attended.

“I always thought I needed to move away and meet new people because I wasn’t meeting a ton of new people there like I wanted to, but I quickly realized once I moved down to Florida that it’s a lot harder to make long-lasting, meaningful friendships the older you are,” she said.

Fall 2012

Aimee Fleming, former student, left Edinboro because she was on academic suspension, and she said she didn’t take college seriously her freshman year.

Fleming went to community college to bring her grades up, and the main reason she did not return to Edinboro is because she wanted to pursue a major that wasn’t offered here.

Fleming ended up transferring to Slippery Rock University to study theatre arts administration.

“I feel like professors could have been more helpful and less demeaning and the whole academic program that’s supposed to help you if you’re struggling, I felt, was horrible compared to Slippery Rock,” she said. “I had way more help at the community college and Slippery Rock, and I definitely felt way more set up to succeed.”

Fleming said she liked the Edinboro atmosphere and thought it was “very welcoming and helpful to the social aspect.”

Dakota Palmer is the news editor for The Spectator. She can be reached at eupnews.spectator@gmail.com. 

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