Ball State University officials think the incoming freshmen class may beat the school’s record for its largest class, set in the late 1990’s. But to continue the momentum, it will need to keep those students through to graduation. As IPR’s Stephanie Wiechmann reports, the university is looking at increasing its retention efforts.
According to Ball State, more than 78 percent of its 2017 freshmen class stayed to enroll as sophomores. That’s higher than the national average of about 75 percent. But it’s also a drop from past years at the Muncie school.
The university will spend the summer shifting to a new academic data software, with hopes that it will help in the retention effort.
Interim Vice President for Student Affairs RoAnne Royer Engle says data of all sorts can help figure out why some students stay and some leave. Like, she says, with commuter students – those that drive to classes instead of living on-campus or even in Muncie.
“One of the things that we’ll dig a little deeper into is whether – where we’re seeing those declines. Is it within a 30 mile radius, a 40 mile radius? What does construction on I-69 have to do with retention? Because it does if you’re a commuting student.”
Engle say many students don’t give a reason for leaving school. Of those who do, more say they want to be closer to home or that they feel they don’t fit in at Ball State. The third highest reason is financial considerations and the fourth is academic issues.
But Ball State says it’s also keeping an eye on the increasing number of students who list mental health issues as why they leave or stop taking classes. Ball State President Geoff Mearns says the school has given more resources to its Counseling Center in an effort to help.
“I think we’re making some changes to try to address this situation. We may need to dedicate even more resources to the Counseling Center to address this particular issue. But we’ve made some progress over the last two years. Because, as RoAnne said, this is an issue that is not isolated to our campus. This is an issue that is affecting high schools and colleges and universities all across the country.”
Ball State says it will form a task force that will craft an updated retention strategy this fall.