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UNLV Campus (photo courtesy of unlv.edu)
UNLV Campus (photo courtesy of unlv.edu)

UNLV Offers Solutions for the Retention Rate on Campus

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Students at UNLV have different views and perspectives on why fellow classmates decide to leave and discontinue their education.  The dropout rate at UNLV makes a significant difference in the value of education.

The dropout rate of an institution is also known as the retention rate.  The retention rate is the amount of students continue to enroll each semester.

Over the years, the number of students retained by UNLV has changed and the programs offered to students who are struggling to stay in school have increased.  It’s now easier to seek help.

According to Ann McDonough, dean of the Academic Success Center at UNLV, there are a number of initiatives to retain students.  The Academic Success Center has tutoring for undergraduate students offering a range of subjects on the second floor of the UNLV library.

“The Academic Success Center offers academic success coaching to all undergraduate students.  Coaching includes regular meetings with specially trained graduate students in the areas of time management, test anxiety, campus referrals, study skills, etc.  There’s also academic advising for all non-admitted and exploring majors,” McDonough said.

UNLV student Amber Flowers, who is pursuing an Education degree, has a certificate for outstanding academic achievement.  Flowers said she thinks students can improve academically with the right motivation.

“I’ve known a few people who started out with me freshmen year of college and then just left school.  They slowly faded away and it all depends on a student’s habits in high school,” Flowers said.

Flowers believes that if a student develops good academic skills earlier in school, then most likely he will succeed in college.

“My school work habits from high school helped me stay focused and now I always do my school work.  School is important and it comes first.  I feel like people today lack the passion to do things and no one really is concerned with doing something they love to do.  They are more concerned with what makes them the most money,” Flowers said.

Flowers said the amount of money that a student can make after graduating college makes all the difference.  If the money isn’t high, then she feels that’s when students may give up and stop trying to achieve their academic goals and ambitions.

“I knew I needed to attend UNLV.  I wanted to get out of my house and I finally have come to a point in my life where I’ve decided what I want to do and I want to further my education.  Education is not enforced in Nevada and it’s not looked at something that’s exciting and entertaining.  It’s looked at as a boring thing to do,” Flowers said.

Flowers sees the education system in Nev. as something that needs to be improved by informing students on how important education can be.

“If the parents of the students aren’t educated themselves, then they can’t really teach their kids to want to go to college.  When I moved here with my parents, I knew that Las Vegas wasn’t going to be a family-oriented city.  The entertainment element here is big and there’s not a lot of stuff for kids to do growing up and that changes the value of a good education,” Flowers said.

Ryan Pedersen, 33, was a former UNLV student who wanted to major in Film.  He attended UNLV from 1999 to 2001.

“I left UNLV for many reasons.  Impatience and financial are probably the main ones.  The choice I made to leave UNLV led me into what I do today. I don’t regret the choice I made and I don’t feel my life would be better off necessarily.  I feel education is very important and I intend to go back and finish what I started,” Pedersen said.

According to the UNLV undergraduate student profile from fall 2012, there were 22,432 students enrolled in 2012.  Full time students make up the majority of the enrollment.  Most of the students are from the metropolitan area of approximately 2 million people.

The diversity and non-traditional nature of its surroundings is shown at UNLV.  Nearly 26 percent of all UNLV undergraduates are 25 years or older and 48 percent of graduate and professional students are 30 years or older.

First year freshmen from fall 2011 were retained at an enrollment total of 2,701.  The enrollment total for fall 2012 was 2,061.  UNLV was able to retain 76.3 percent of the students enrolled.  When students are retained, it values UNLV in a way that shows they want to keep their students enrolled and focused.  Every year the university loses students at graduation, so retaining current students is a goal for UNLV.

UNLV encourages diversity among students.  Half of UNLV’s degree-seeking undergraduate students report being part of a racial or ethnic minority.

According to the UNLV “Get Involved” section online, there are different ethnic programs that help students feel comfortable around campus and students help each other with their studies.

Students Organizing Diversity Activities (SODA) is an organization of students who plan different cultural and diverse events and are the student programming board housed in the Office of Civic Engagement and Diversity.  They focus on celebrating different cultural months to make students feel like they belong at UNLV and that’s a way to encourage students to stay in school.   

Assistant Director of Learning Support at the Academic Success Center, Anne White said UNLV needed to enroll more freshmen students because the retention of upper division students was a lot less than expected.

“We had to compensate by bringing in more freshmen to balance out.  One of the things that happens is as students get into their upper division courses, they spend more money on courses meaning more money for the university.  When we lose 40 percent of our population that start out at a certain year, that doesn’t do the university a service,” White said.

White said when people graduate they have more opportunities.

“We’re trying to keep students enrolled so that they can have career dreams that are alive so they have more choices rather than just a high school education.  There are all kinds of circumstances that can cause a student to not stay around, but if we can eliminate some of those barriers then we can probably keep a percentage that are enrolled and keep them going through their senior year,” White said.

According to White, “We lose almost 40 percent of enrolled students by junior year and that can be improved.  It really is challenging to have high percentages.  There might be opportunities to raise money for scholarships to keep students in and have more work study kinds of opportunities on campus so students are here and engaged.”

“There are a lot of first generation students enrolled at UNLV, which are students who are the first from their families to go to college,” White said.  “There are some family situations that come into play, we have students who still live at home or close by their family that didn’t move out because of economic situations.  The university provides economic help to students, which would be helpful with retention.  There are community services that have scholarship money to give out to students who need the economic help to stay in college,” she added.

“There are all kinds of reasons why students don’t return to college.  They transfer to other colleges, family situations, economic issues and low grade point averages,” White said.

“A lot of students don’t take advantage of the resources that are available to them and the university provides really good programs for students to help them professionally, personally or academically,” White added.

White said the first year determines a lot whether a student will graduate.  It can be a downhill spiral if issues begin in the first year.  Bad habits like not studying or just not getting the right academic help can result in students wanting to discontinue their education.

There are a lot of academic programs and organizations like the library, tutoring services, success scholars program, athletics academic services and academic advising that can help students seek help if they are having trouble with their studies, White said.

“My recommendation to students is to take advantage to what’s available to them before they make that decision to leave school,” White said.

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