Retention rates appear to be low

By Gus Bode

Calculated numbers to be tallied in October

Fall enrollment is up 275 students, but the University’s retention rates still remain low, according to Larry Dietz, vice chancellor for Student Affairs and Enrollment Management.

The Department of Institutional Research and Studies has not yet calculated this fall’s retention numbers.


Linda Benz, an assistant director for Institutional Research and Studies, said the department has been looking at the initial head count and 10-day enrollment figures.

She said retention numbers would be calculated in October, although the final deadline for those figures is not until sometime in December.

The amount of students continuing their education at SIUC has decreased over the past five years, according to the University Fact Book.

In 1997, 2,234 new, full-time freshmen seeking a baccalaureate degree started their college career at SIUC. About 73 percent of those students stayed their sophomore year, and 59.2 percent of those freshmen stayed a third year.

Looking at each year after 1997, the percentage of freshmen entering the University decreased, as well as the amount of students who continued onto their second, third and fourth years. The last calculation of retention numbers was in 2000, and 67 percent of 2,281 freshmen continued to a second year of education at SIUC.

Dietz said SIUC compares in the “low end of the pack” with institutions in the state of Illinois. But he said when one looks at retention figures, he or she needs to compare in terms of academic selectivity instead of by state, geographic area or a national sports conference.

“If we compare ourselves with the peer group and the aspirational group in the Southern at 150, we look low in that,” Dietz said. “But within that population, there is also some criteria that explains some reasons for retention.


“For many universities you see a two-prong retention problem from freshman to sophomore year and from the junior to senior year,” Dietz said. “But here we have a four-prong problem.”

He said the focus for why the University has this problem is unclear and SIUC is trying to do research to evaluate its retention situation.

However, Dietz said the University is aware of one reason that can negatively affect retention – the amount of military installations at SIUC compared to others in the state.

“If you start out your career in the military and at Southern at the same time, you are in that cohort,” Dietz said. “The demand of folks in the military, that they are going to be transferred to here and another place and another place. They are not going to be marching down a for a full six years.”

Dietz said this reason and others could affect retention rates negatively because of the need for students to leave the University. But he noted several programs established on campus to help all students remain all four years at SIUC.

The Saluki Advantage program is one of several others including the Center for Basic Skills, Supplemental Instruction, the College of Education and other college tutoring and mentoring programs and the new undergraduate assistantship positions.

Kathy Lorentz, Housing Program coordinator, helped establish the Saluki Advantage, a 3-year-old program geared to group freshmen in similar fields of study in the same residence halls.

She said the mission for Saluki Advantage is for groups of 10 to 20 freshman students to take two or three of the same classes together, make friendships, go to dinner and classes and get involved.

Lorentz noted the pilot program, which started with two freshmen interest groups in Thompson Point, has grown in its first year to 16 groups. And last year, the program had 21 groups of students living together in residence halls.

“Now we have 27 for fall 2003,” Lorentz said. “It’s not set this year, but every year it has gotten more popular.”

She said she hopes the new numbers reporting how many of those students remained at SIUC their second year are promising. Lorentz attributed this feeling to the type of program Saluki Advantage is.

“For most students, Southern is a large university, and this creates small communities within a large university,” Lorentz said. “They have someone to study with a few doors down.”

Reporter Samantha Edmondson can be reached [email protected]