Retention rates concern DSU officials

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Retention initiatives are in full force and are trying to keep Dixie State University’s enrollment high.

Dixie State has seemed to always have the reputation of being a starter school for college students. It is a place where they can get an affordable associate degree and then transfer to larger universities when they graduate. Add this factor to students who flunk out of school, go on service missions, get a job, or pursue other goals and DSU’s retention rate sits at 47 percent. 

Campus officials have been working on initiatives to encourage students who want to stay and continue their education at DSU.

 David Roos, the executive director of enrollment services, said one project is a computer program called Starfish. This program allows faculty members to flag students who are struggling. Faculty members submit concerns to the student and the advisement center, and they work on ways to help the students before they drop out of class or school.

The faculty have already flagged 1,587 students this semester.

Once the students are contacted, it is their responsibility to turn their grades around with the help of advisers, and most students are grateful for the help.

[The] majority of students like the Starfish program,” Academic Adviser Whitney Roberts said. “The students who don’t like it are the ones who need the most help.” 

Roberts said most students don’t even realize they are having a problem in a class.

“A lot of students don’t realize that CIS or LIB have a schedule and deadlines,” Roberts said. “We have saved a lot of students from failing these classes.”

The First Year Experience course is another project the administration is hoping to increase enrollment. Advisers give freshmen the needed skills to successfully jump the hurdles associated with college. 

“This has seemed to be working for students and helping them improve,” Roos said. 

Sarah Black, coordinator of First Year Experience, said the numbers they have been getting back show these courses helped retention have a 10 percent increase

Black said it is key to help freshmen at the beginning of their college career because they are the ones who help keep retention high.

“Most students are overwhelmed when they enter a college atmosphere, and this program gives them the skills they need to coupe with this,” Black said. 

Kenzy Davis, a freshman education major from Henefer, said her FYE class has made her feel more comfortable on campus and succeed in her classes.

“I have learned a lot of good study habits from the class,” Davis said. “They also took us on a tour of campus so we wouldn’t get lost.”

While this class is helping some freshmen with their college goals, many students don’t know the course exists. 

“It has been a problem in the past with students not knowing about the courses,” Black said. “We are starting new marketing tools to help boost enrollment.”

One of the most important initiatives is giving faculty and staff tips to help with the rates.

“We want them to know students’ names and have time to meet with students,” Roos said. “We have had training about how to do all of these.”

A new initiative this year is mandating teachers to submit midterm grades. Teachers can submit the letter grades of their students as well as submitting a “S,” meaning the student is satisfactory, or a “C,” meaning the student is a concern.

While enrollment officials said this will help identify students who are struggling, some teachers feel the new system has flaws.

Ron Woodland, associate professor of visual technology, said there are better ways to go about getting grades that will benefit students and faculty. 

“I have created my own program for my classes and it seems to help the students,” Woodland said.

Woodland posts rubrics he has created for each assignment online so students can see what is expected of them. Once students receive a grade, they can go online and see where they earned a high score and where they earned a low score, which allows them to improve throughout the semester. 

“Midterm grades don’t reflect what a student is really like in the class,” Woodland said. “Some students struggle in the first half of the semester and then turn things around.” 

Since Dixie’s change to the university status, more degrees have been offered to students, and the enrollment services are hoping it will help with the retention.

“The new degrees help,” Roos said. “It would be even better if we could get master’s degrees offered.”

According to Roos, the limited degrees offered is a large reason students only stay at DSU for an associate degree. 

“Dixie was a great place to get my generals done,” said Macklin Johnson, a junior general education major from Mayfield. “I would stay, but engineering isn’t offered here.”

While some students have already decided what they are going to do with their future schooling, there are freshmen still deciding their educational career.

In a survey conducted among freshmen at summer orientation, 90 percent of students said they would be continuing at Dixie the following year.

“The biggest impact on having these students stay here is making them feel like someone cares about them,” Roos said. “That is where current students and faculty can step in and help.