Jan 222004
Authors: Erin Skarda

CSU ranked the highest among its national peers in first-year

student retention rates, according to a recent report issued by the

Colorado Commission on Higher Education.

Retention rates measure the percentage of students who stay at

the institution from one semester to the next. Out of 3,685

incoming freshmen at CSU in 2001, approximately 626 students


“Over the last six or eight years retention rates of freshmen,

measured to the fall of their sophomore year, have held steady

around 82 percent,” said Keith Ickes. associate vice president for

Administrative Services and director of the Office of Budgets and

Institutional Analysis.

According to the CCHE report, in 2001 the retention of

first-year students was 83.1 percent. This number falls within the

benchmark prediction created through an analysis of the


The University of Colorado-Boulder and the University of

Northern Colorado fell below their predicted benchmarks in 2001.

UNC had the lowest retention rate, weighing in at 68.2 percent.

CU-Boulder fell below its benchmark by almost 1 percent, although

its rate was 0.2 percent higher than CSU’s.

“Differences in retention rates are based on how institutions

define themselves,” said Paul Thayer, director of the Center for

Advising and Student Achievement. “UNC has a different mission.

There is only a small difference between CSU and CU retention

because the schools have similar missions.”

Ernie Chavez, chairperson for the Department of Psychology, has

another opinion about retention differences.

“CSU and CU students have higher index scores. They were better

academic high school students and more prepared for the academic

performance demanded of a university,” Chavez said.

Thayer said more than 80 percent of the students who leave CSU

before graduation leave during the first and second years. Reasons

why students leave are varied.

“Personal and financial reasons are the two most common

responses to why a student leaves,” Thayer said. “Seventy percent

of students who leave, leave in good academic standing.”

Chavez agreed.

“Frequently we most expect finance reasons, feeling lonely and

disconnected from the school or grades,” Chavez said. “If the

person doesn’t deal with the pressures of college it can affect

their grades and cause them to alienate their support system.”

Carla McSheehy, a freshman pre-veterinary medicine major, said

homesickness is a reason why students would leave college during or

after their first year.

“I know people who left CSU to go to different schools closer to

home,” McSheehy said. “Some got kicked out for alcohol and other


Ickes pointed out one of these other reasons.

“If a student changes their major and it’s not offered here

they’ll leave,” Ickes said. “Sometimes it’s just too much freedom.

It all varies by the students’ experience and what they want to


Blake Palazzari, a sophomore English major, said budget cuts

might be a reason why students would want to leave CSU.

“Budget cuts are preventing students from getting into the right

classes,” Palazzari said.

Although increasing class sizes have caused some students

trouble, Thayer said there is no data indicating this as a reason

for students leaving.

“I think the biggest issue is to what extent a student connects

to the institution and campus with academics, faculty, major,

adviser and socially,” Thayer said. “Involvement is an important

issue so large classes need to make us worry.”

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