By YANG ZHANG
Capital News Service
LANSING – More students in Michigan public universities are staying for a second year.
For example, 5 percent more Eastern Michigan University freshmen enrolled for their sophomore year this fall than last.
Lynette Findley, the university’s assistant vice president for retention and student success, said the 77 percent retention rate is the highest since 1992, when the university began tracking it.
Wayne State, Grand Valley State, Western Michigan and Ferris State universities also saw slight jumps in freshman retention from last year.
Michael Boulus, executive director of the Presidents Council, State Universities of Michigan, said freshman retention in public universities has increased statewide.
However, Oakland University experienced a 1.1 percent decrease. But Dave Gross, assistant director of media relations at the university, said the drop isn’t of major concern because small fluctuations from year to year are common.
Oakland’s retention rate was 73.3 percent.
Lynn Blue, vice provost and dean of academic services and information technology at Grand Valley, said many factors keep students from continuing after their freshman year, including poor adjustment to college, illness or poor academic performance.
Boulus said success in the first year is vital.
“When you have a successful first year, you will continue on,” he said. “If you don’t, the chances are you will transfer or quit.
“We want to make sure that our students stay in college and complete their degrees.”
Universities offer services such as tutoring and counseling to help students succeed and enhance retention, Boulus said.
For example, many universities have “learning communities” for freshmen to help each other with coursework.
Linda Falkiewicz, the Wayne State registrar, said, “Retention rates for students who are in learning communities are much higher than those who are not.”
Wayne State’s mid-term grading program informs students of their academic performance in the first half-semester and urges those who are doing poorly to make early efforts to improve grades, she said.
Findley said a good transition from high school to college helps students stay in college.
Freshmen look for rules to follow as they did in high school, she said.
Eastern Michigan mandates that freshmen, especially those who are conditionally admitted, get advising, attend meetings or pass certain courses to improve their chance of future success, she said.
Falkiewicz said Wayne State’s “iStart” program, a three-day orientation, helps freshmen adjust to college life.
But the biggest challenge is money, experts said.
Boulus said students from low-income families are the most likely to discontinue college education after the first year.
Falkiewicz said that although universities offer financial aid, not all students in need can get it.
© 2010, Capital News Service, Michigan State University School of Journalism. Not to be reproduced without permission.