ISU staff encourages students to seek help before dropping out


Illustration: Ryan Francois/Iowa State Daily

Some ISU staff believe that learning communities and taking advantage of other programs at school will help decrease the student dropout rate. 

Daniel Bush

Some students consider dropping out because of anything due to financial issues to academic difficulties and to family. ISU staff encourages those students to get support from their programs before making that decision.

Drop out rates for freshman has increased from 12.3 percent in 2011 to 14.2 percent in 2012. The average dropout rate for ISU freshman is 15.2 percent.

These numbers do change when it comes to transfer students, said Jonathan Compton, senior research analyst in records and registration.

“It looks like that first year kind of drops a little bit for the transfer students,” Compton said. “There’s a term for that. It’s called ‘transfer shock.’ It’s kind of like when you get here, and you realize that the school you were at before, [and] things are a little bit different.”

Transfer students’ drop rates have decreased, from 19.6 percent to 17.8 percent from 2011 to 2012. A great success compared to the average 21 percent. On average, that number increases after the first year to 27.9 percent.

That first year is crucial for both transfer and freshman students, Compton explained.

“The university does a lot to help students stick it out and finish,” Compton said.

Thomas Hill, senior vice president of student affairs, gave a list of programs that the university provides students to help to get them into programs.

“You’ve got student athletes; they have a program, … scholarship programs, the Hixson program,” Hill said. “You’ve got a number of programs that really focus on retention. Where we really need to focus is in those areas where a student may not be affiliated with a specific program.”

Hill also provided some ways that the university gets connected to students to get them in these programs.

“We do things like MapWorks; that’s one way of doing it,” Hill said.

Laura Doering, registrar at records and registration, suggested MapWorks as well.

“You are putting information in there that helps both your academic advisers, and other support units at the university determine where you might need assistance,” Doering said.

Variables big and small all have an effect on Iowa State’s drop outs: Iowa resident vs. non-Iowa resident, race, gender, high school rank and ACT composite score.

High school rank and ACT composite score have a big impact. High school ranks of 80 percentile and higher have an average drop-out rate of 7.6 percent.

“Learning communities are certainly a success story at Iowa State and have contributed positively to our retention and graduation efforts,” Doering said. “When you look at the learning community cohort against a comparable non-learning community cohort, you will see they will persist and graduated at a greater rate.”

In 2011, only 10.2 percent of learning community students dropped out compared to 17.3 percent of non-learning community students.

“It’s really important for students to recognize that it’s not that nobody wants to help [them],” Hill said. “We try to make it clear that the student is responsible for his or her education and that the assistance is here.”

Hill knows that there are instances where students “fall through the cracks.” Not because of the university, but because the student decided not to get the help.

“It’s really something we are paying attention to here at the university here … and if they need additional assistance,” Doering said.

“We are here to help,” Hill said. “That’s what we’re all about.”