Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Bonner: Drop-out report in-accurate

Freshmen who did not return to their colleges or universities cost the state of Alabama more than $170 million between 2003 and 2008, according to a report released Oct. 11 by the non-profit American Institutes for Research.

As reported in the Birmingham News, the study indicates 30 percent of freshmen who enrolled this fall will not return to the same college or university next year.

The University of Alabama and the University of Alabama at Birmingham expended the most funds on freshmen who either dropped out or transferred during the 2007-08 academic year.

“The schools spent more than $10 million each, followed by Alabama State University, at $9.6 million,” the article states. “That money came from state appropriations to the schools plus state, local, federal and university grants to the students.”

Judy Bonner, the University’s executive vice president and provost, said in an e-mailed statement that the University has a higher retention rate of freshmen than the average rate of 70 percent listed for public universities in the report.

“The average retention rate from 2003 to 2008 was 85 percent,” she said. “During this six-year period, 24,212 students enrolled as freshmen. And 20,584 returned for their sophomore year.”

She said the report contained inaccurate data.

“I honestly do not believe that the authors of the study intended for the data to be accurate,” she said. “Rather, I think they intended to shock the public with the freshmen to sophomore retention rates and the six-year graduation rates in an effort to get people to talk about what can be done to address the dropout rate. Clearly, this University is committed to insuring students’ success.”

Bonner said the University has developed a number of services to retain students.

She said the Registrar’s Office and the various colleges involved offer the online resource DegreeWorks to help students find a beginning, middle and end to their undergraduate course studies.

“The purpose of DegreeWorks is to insure that all students know exactly how the courses they have taken apply to degree requirements and they know exactly what is left in order to graduate,” she said. “DegreeWorks has an additional tool that enables students to develop an academic plan for every semester until graduation. If students take the time to complete an academic plan, they can stay on track to graduate in four years.”

In addition to the many living-learning communities students can join, Bonner said the University supplies support networks for students to interact with.

“You cannot discuss retention without also mentioning the various academic advising offices in the colleges, Student Involvement and Leadership, Center for Teaching and Learning, Recreational Center, Housing and Residential Communities, Greek Affairs, Community Service Center, Campus Ministries, Counseling Center, the Career Center and Creative Campus as just a few of the areas that are available to help students connect with the University and be successful,” she said.

Bonner said the University periodically surveys the students who do not return the following year.

“About half of the students who do not return indicate that they plan to return at a later time,” she said. “A big reason that students give is to attend college closer to home. Sometimes this is because a girlfriend or boyfriend is there. Sometimes this is because of family illness. Some students find that college simply isn’t for them and they want to join the armed forces or work for a while before trying college again.”

As reported in the Birmingham News, the study by the American Institutes for Research did not field students who returned to the same college or university after an absence.

Joe Field, a freshman in New College and a member of the Blount Undergraduate Initiative, said he sees opportunities for freshmen to get involved and interested in University life.

“I feel like I can get involved,” he said. “They don’t make you get involved. You have to do it yourself, unless you’re in a [living-learning] community like Blount.”

Field said freshmen may leave the University because of its size.

“[Freshmen may leave], because it’s too big and they’re not shown enough attention,” he said.

He said student organizations and intramural sports, such as the soccer team he plays with, help to compensate for that lack of attention.

Zachary McCann, a freshman in New College, said New College offers opportunities for students to feel involved.

“New College has houses that you can sign up for,” he said. “I’m in the social justice and performance houses, but I don’t really go to the meetings. The students get together and participate in things that they enjoy, but they’re not for freshmen necessarily. They’re for everyone in New College.”

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