HSU Targets Low Retention Rates

By Monica Carranza
Flapjack Chronicle

The goal: Reducing the number of students who start at Humboldt State but don’t graduate. A plan? It’s in the works. With a record setting number of freshman expected for the next school year, HSU is ramping up retention efforts.

Jacqueline Honda, director of Institutional Research and Planning,  explains there are many factors that could contribute to a student not continuing at HSU.

“They could be academically disqualified, on probation or have financial troubles,” she says. Administration has implemented programs to try to combat these issues and make the transition into college life easier. For the past two years, a First Year Freshman experience class has been implemented to create a space where students can learn study skills, time management and what it takes to be successful in college. Unfortunately the classes have shown no results, Honda says.

HSU has the second lowest retention rates out of all CSUs, the lowest being Cal State Bakersfield. Retention rates for first-year students are about 73 percent, 60 percent for second-year students, and a low 55 percent for third-year students.

The IRP Retention Report also found that females had a consistently 6 percent higher retention rate that males. Interestingly, contrary to popular belief, underrepresented minority students (African American, American Indian, Hispanic/Latino, Pacific Islander) are just as likely to return after their second year as Caucasian and Asian students, who have similar retention rates as sophomores.

The gap starts to show after their second year, minority students show a progressive 5 percent decrease in retention. A cross examination shows that the student most at risk is a minority male, since they show a 10 percent lower retention rate than non-URM females.

Staff and faculty have arranged student feedback forums to get a student perspective on why HSU students leave in such high numbers. On Thursday, April 11, HSU administration held a working group to make recommendations on how to improve campus support for students of color. Roughly 140 students attended this forum to share their opinions.

The general sentiment shows that students build communities on campus through clubs they identify with. Others students say they do not feel a sense of belonging to the school, and find it difficult to accommodate when they don’t see themselves reflected in the school or in the faculty. Students spoke positively about their experiences with the peer mentoring programs the school offers.

Programs such as EOP (Educational Opportunity Program), L.P.M. (Latino Peer Mentoring), and the new program, R.A.M.P. (Residential Academic Mentoring Program) have helped ease new students into college and inform them on campus resources that they would not otherwise be aware of. A similar discussion forum was held on April 25 to discuss how to improve campus advising.

Psychology major Emily Narvaez is a sophomore at HSU and she feels part of the responsibility falls on the students to make themselves feel at home.

“When I was a freshman I was very homesick, didn’t really know all of the resources offered at the school and would often contemplate leaving the school,” she says, “As students I feel like we should reach out to new students and teach them about campus resources.”

Humboldt State has implemented impaction for the first time next fall.

“HSU is expecting 1,629 freshman for the next semester,” says Honda.  “That will be the highest number to ever be expected.” For this reason, she says, it is dire that HSU provide a sound support mechanism for students.

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