Dietz highlights retention efforts

By Gus Bode

The retention rate at SIUC stayed steady at 69 percent this year, but Larry Dietz, vice chancellor for Student Affairs, highlighted several methods to improve retention at Thursday’s ‘State of the Division’ address.

Two programs, the Saluki First Year Experience and Saluki Cares, are in place and could have an immediate affect on retention.

Dietz said the Saluki First Year Experience should improve the university’s retention right away.


‘I can’t tell you how delighted I am to have that off the ground,’ Dietz said. ‘That’s something that this institution has needed for decades.’

At the 2008 ‘State of the University’ address, Chancellor Sam Goldman expressed a goal of a 76 percent retention rate, which was not met.

Julie Payne Kirchmeier, director of Saluki First Year Student Affairs, said she wants to make freshmen feel connected to the university.

‘Ideally, a student won’t know they’re a part of Saluki First Year,’ Kirchmeier said. ‘They’re just going to know that they had a phenomenal first-year experience and that they’re excited to be a part of the university.’

The Saluki First Year Experience was started to help students make the transition from a high school senior to a college freshman. Goldman pledged $400,000 annually during the next three years to fund the program.

Saluki Cares, a new, early alert initiative program, allows faculty, staff, parents and students to submit a confidential referral. After the referral has been submitted, someone from the Saluki Cares team will connect them with the help they need.

Katherine Sermersheim, director of Student Development, said the program is in place to help students with any of their needs.


‘We are here to help students who need help in a wide variety of ways,’ Sermersheim said. ‘We’re happy to help with any questions.’

Dietz said for every 100 students the university loses, it loses about $1 million.

‘ ‘It is in our best interest to do everything we can to support enrollment and retention on our campus,’ Dietz said. ‘It’s not just because it’s fiscally a wonderful thing to do, but it’s the right thing to do.’

Dietz said enrollment, which went from 20,673 in 2008 to 20,350 this year, has meant a loss of nearly $3 million for the university.

Dietz said there are also other, less expensive ways for administrators to help students enjoy their college experience at SIUC and help the retention effort.

‘When you’re walking down the sidewalk and there’s a student coming in the opposite direction, just say, ‘Hello, how are you doing?” Dietz said. ‘That makes a difference.’