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.


Dolores Huerta’s HSU talk inspires students

By Monica Carranza
Flapjack Chronicle

Students Luis Huante, Janette Ramirez and Emily Narvaez hold up their tickets to see Dolores Huerta at HSU.


The Tuesday before Spring Break, hundreds of students stood in line in front of the Van Duzer Theatre awaiting the arrival of political activist and United Farm Workers Movement leader, Dolores Huerta. Huerta co-founded of the United Farm Workers along with Cesar Chavez. The UFW was a labor union created to help get workers unemployment insurance and basic worker’s rights to farm workers in 1962. The on campus organization, F.R.E.E (Find Resources through Empowerment and Education), fundraised for over a year to bring the keynote speaker to lead a discussion on empowerment through unity. Many HSU students are knowledgeable on movements such as this and appreciate the chance to meet fellow activists.

Bryan Fiallos, a senior at HSU, was one of those students.

“I know of her, but not much,” he said. “I’m here to gain insight on the movement, I know that she stands up for undocumented people, farmer’s rights… And as an elder she has lots to offer for the next generation of activists. I’m also really excited to see Danza Azteca open for her. A Chicano student body acknowledging an indigenous group is awesome!”

Angelica Lua, a junior at HSU, has a more extensive knowledge on Huerta’s work and was excited to see her speak.

“This is very interesting opportunity,” she says. “She’s also involved with an organization that helps undocumented students, and I want to touch up on how that’s going.

Melissa Estrada, a senior at HSU, says she was impressed by the opportunity to see Huerta.

“This is an amazing opportunity to meet an individual who’s done so much for the latino community,” Estrada says. “We don’t get many activists on campus that are willing to give their time to talk to us and answer our questions. She’s an inspiration. This is truly an honor.”

After the keynote speech, Huerta signed autographs at the MultiCultural Center; giving students a chance to talk to her one on one.

Emily Narvaez, a junior at HSU, agrees that the event was more “amazing” than she’d expected.

“I agreed with pretty much everything she said,” Narvaez says. “She spoke the way I would like to speak. She’s really inspirational. She kept telling us that if we were to come together we’d be able to achieve our goals a lot easier.”

Humboldt Hack attacks HSU

By Monica Carranza
Flapjack Chronicle
Students attending Humboldt State University are at high risk for developing chronic coughs. There are numerous accounts of students who have seen their coughs progress into more serious conditions, like bronchitis or asthma. Janette Ramirez, a sophomore at HSU, says her cough evolved into exercise induced asthma throughout the course of her first year.
“I got sick when I first came up, just a common cold and coughing,” she says. “But I got over the cold and the cough stuck for the rest of the year. It was so bad that I would have to excuse myself from class so that I wouldn’t disrupt everyone. I was very self conscious about it.”
Ramirez’s cough has been diagnosed as exercise induced asthma. She now has trouble walking far distances without her inhaler.
“The inhaler really helps,” she says. “I couldn’t exercise before, I would start wheezing just by walking up the stairs.”
Ian Harris, a freshman here at HSU, has had a similar experience. Harris says his cough too started out harmlessly and progressed into something much more serious.
“It started off like a tickle in the back of my throat, but then I started having cough attacks and that constant feeling like I needed to cough,” he says. “At one point, I was coughing up blood and mucus, it was coming from my lungs. After a while it was so intense that my chest was sore. I even had a bruised rib cage from the strain. I was miserable. ”
Harris’s condition seems to have been a lot more severe, despite the fact that he monitored the cough well by attending doctor’s appointments. He has been diagnosed with bronchitis, although the it is not yet known what caused it.
“Now, I pay attention to my breathing and the signs,” says Harris. “Like the tickle in the back of my throat, it’s different than a normal cough or cold. It’s a cough you can’t suppress, and it gets worse if you try to. It got really severe at one point, I’d be wheezing it out, not breathing out.”
Director of Student Health Services Mary Grooms VanCott explains that coughs are often caused by smoking and environmental factors.
“Chronic coughs are predominantly a result of smoking, as well as being exposed to an irritant such as pollen or other allergenic, though in some cities environmental surroundings can make a difference,” says VanCott.
HSU campus is one the most lavishly forested campuses in the state. It is not surprising that students who come from urban hometowns would have some sort of reaction to the change of environment. One should also note that smoking increases the chances of developing a chronic cough. Health experts say students should refrain from doing so in order to avoid these serious and costly medical issues.