DSU enrollment at record high; freshman retention rates drop

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Dixie State University officials continue to promote growth on campus while freshman retention rates continue to drop.

Last fall, DSU welcomed the largest freshman class in the institution’s history with 9,673 students. The 7.56 percent increase in total students earned DSU the title of highest enrollment percentage increase of any other Utah public university for its second year in a row and made DSU the largest university in southern Utah.

However, as the incoming population increases, freshman retention rates continue their gradual descent. In 2016, DSU had one of the lowest freshman retention rates in the nation, 58 percent of students continuing on to become sophomores at DSU.

Hollie Roper, a senior psychology major from Mona, enrolled at DSU for the fall 2014 semester and not only continued on to be a sophomore, but decided to finish her degree at the university.

“I originally chose to attend DSU because my older sister began attending, and once I graduated high school I wanted to spend more time with her and be closer to her but still attend college,” Roper said. 

Roper said even though she was upset when her sister finished her degree and moved to northern Utah, she never considered transferring.

“I had made some incredible connections with people and professors whom all inspire me to stay and complete my work here at DSU,” Roper said.

Roper said her time interning with the Women’s Resource Center and working under professors who inspire her is what kept her at DSU and allowed her to never lose her drive to learn and grow.

“I think that DSU is an incredible school,” Roper said. “It does have things that could be improved, but over all my experience at DSU has been a positive one, and I’m glad I came here.”

It was also found that 48 percent of the students at DSU in 2012 had not finished bachelor’s degrees by 2016. This included 119 full-time and returning students; three were still working toward their degree, five transferred to a different institution, and DSU lost contact with the other 111 students.

In 2017 the freshman retention rate dropped to 54 percent for full-time students, and 33 percent in part-time students. However, the overall graduation rate increased from 33 percent in 2016 to 46 percent in 2017.

Valerie Velazquez enrolled in DSU’s criminal justice program in fall 2017 and transferred to the College of Southern Nevada spring 2018. Born and raised in Las Vegas, Velazquez was looking for a new experience when moving to Utah, but didn’t like the environment.

“I have more pros in my city,” Velazquez said. “I have my family, my friends and I know the environment.”

Velazquez said having moved back home, there are aspects of living in Utah that she misses, but they are not exclusive to being in Utah or enrolling at DSU.

“I don’t have as much freedom,” Velazquez said. “Living in Utah I had all the freedom I needed, but it only bit me in the butt.” 

Velazquez said the newfound freedom lent to many of her misfortunes with people and school. 

Kyla Borg enrolled at DSU in fall 2016 as a first-time freshman from Salt Lake City. Borg came to DSU looking for an inexpensive and quality education; she left looking for a degree DSU didn’t have, she said.

Borg transferred to Salt Lake Community College for the spring 2018 semester, but she said the benefits and disadvantages are about the same.

“Both places have what I need, but it [is hard] because [DSU] has more stuff to do and more options,” Borg said.

Borg is still struggling to have her transcripts transferred over to SLCC despite ordering them early-to-mid February, she said. 

Borg said, to her, DSU had more to offer than SLCC does. Borg said DSU has more school spirit, more community and more opportunities for growth.

“I miss being a Trailblazer,” Borg said.