Colleges work to raise first-year retention rate


TCU School of Journalism

photo credit: Paige Megyesi

Finances, rather than academics, are what usually prompts first year college students to drop out.

Among 2,142 students surveyed by the Pew Research Center, 57 percent said they dropped out to work and make money, while 48 percent said they could not afford college.

Still, one third of those dropped out for academic reasons.

All these reasons might trace back to a lack of connectedness with the campus, said Deidra Turner, associate director of TCU’s Center for Academic Services.

“The campus is too small, the campus may be too large, or they just feel like the students around them don’t reflect who they are,” said Turner.

Turner said first-year students who are struggling with mental health or family issues are also at risk of dropping out. Turner added these problems can burden the student and make college life harder, leading them to dropping out altogether.

Sometimes, Turner said, college just becomes too much for some students to handle.

“New school, new classes, a new way of working,” she said. “You may have your family tugging at you. Your own issues tugging at you. So those things will create a sense of ‘This is not the time for me to be in college.'”

Turner said universities have programs aimed at keeping first-year students in college. TCU students who fail their first semester are often enrolled in College 101. They are introduced to new study methods and are assigned a coach who works with them throughout the next semester.

TCU tries to connect incoming first-year and transfer students to the university, its traditions and other students through Frog Camp.

“We are looking for signs early. They’re not going to class, they’re not involved in any organizations, they have swipes on their meal plan that they are not using,” Turner said.