The creation of on-campus programs is not the answer. Outside research is not the answer, either. If the University wants to know why the retention rate remains low, it needs to ask the students themselves why they are not returning to SIU to complete their education.

By Gus Bode

Final retention rates will not be available until October, but during the last five years there has been a steady decrease in retention, and the numbers don’t seem to be rising this year.

According to the University Fact Book, 2,234 freshmen began their college careers at SIUC in 1997. Of those, only 73 percent stayed for their sophomore year, and of those, an embarrassing 59 percent came back for their third year. By the fourth year only 20 percent of the original freshmen actually graduated.

Offering the Saluki Advantage program, Center for Basic Skills, Supplemental Instruction and various other programs is a great idea, but if the retention rate has not risen because of them, it is time to either revamp them or find other ways to keep students returning to school.


In 2000, the enrollment management firm Noel-Levitz was brought in to help SIUC distribute copies of its “Institutional Priorities Survey” to 2,500 students and 500 faculty and staff members to gain insight on aspects of retention and what can be done to raise rates.

Evidently, this did not work. The firm was unable to come to a conclusion, and the University was left once again to find another way to correct the problem.

Enrollment numbers throughout the years have risen slightly, but at the same time, retention rates are still falling. If the firm could not correct the situation, it just goes to show that when there is a problem at home -home being SIU-the family needs to take care of its own business.

What is keeping students from returning to SIU? The reasons can only be found by asking students who have left. After students fail to register for the next semester or withdraw from the University during the semester, the University should send them a questionnaire to find out why.

From there, the University can examine the data to find a way to identify the top reasons students did not return. Then it can find a way to fix the problems.

With the special programs on campus to help keep students in school, there have been many success stories of students remaining at SIU, but that is among the students who are participating in the programs. What about the students who need the help and are either not offered or afraid to ask for it?

It is easy to say that the programs are there for anyone to utilize, but not all people respond to the same approaches of education, and therefore are left behind because there is no one to help them using a style or concept they can relate to.


If SIU wants to retain its students for all four years of their college career, it has to stop bringing in people to create new programs and conduct surveys of current students. It needs to strip away all of the costly materials and interact with the students they already lost at the same time as those currently enrolled.