SD college retention rates haven’t improvedSIOUX FALLS (AP) — Fewer than 75 percent of South Dakota college freshmen return for a second year, a retention rate below the national average that higher education officials say they’re trying to strengthen.
SIOUX FALLS (AP) — Fewer than 75 percent of South Dakota college freshmen return for a second year, a retention rate below the national average that higher education officials say they’re trying to strengthen.
“It’s a high priority. We’re working on it. We don’t expect high improvement right away,” said Jack Warner, director of the South Dakota Board of Regents.
The six colleges that are part of the regents’ system have made a number of changes geared to student retention since they hosted a conference last year that featured a national expert on the subject. They overhauled remedial math instruction, required freshmen to take seminars to introduce them to campus services and started using software programmed to spot students who may be at risk of leaving.
However, the schools’ retention rate of 72 percent in the current school year is unchanged. The national average for four-year public universities is about 79 percent, the newspaper reported Sunday.
South Dakota State University opened a special center last year to stay in touch with freshmen. Advisers must contact one of their assigned students at least four times each year.
“We talk with them a lot more than that,” said Judy Owen, the center’s coordinator. She calls it “intrusive advising.”
“If we can initiate the contact ... that can make the difference,” she said.
SDSU’s freshman retention rate was 75 percent for four consecutive years, before it dropped to 73 percent last year. It returned to 75 percent this year.
Laurie Nichols, provost at South Dakota State University, said the school’s retention rate slipped as its enrollment grew rapidly.
“I think our retention got away from us a bit because we grew too much, too fast,” Nichols said. In the past two years, she said, “we’ve really gotten back to that.”
Students say the “intrusive advising” is often annoying. Joseph Petersen, a South Dakota State sophomore from Lake Benton, Minn., said he did not believe seminars should be compulsory.
“It was pretty much a waste of time,” Petersen said of a seminar course he took last year.