8 Dec 2011

Reasons Behind Ohio College Retention Rates Dropping Each Year

Author: Jacqueline Gedeon | Filed under: Enterprise Story

By Jacqueline Gedeon

Breanna Robertson enrolled at Bowling Green State University in 2009 with every intention of graduating within four years.

When her step-father was laid off after 17 years of working for the U.S. Post Office, Robertson had to leave BGSU after her second year.

“We couldn’t really afford it because we don’t get enough financial aid,” Robertson said.  “My family doesn’t have the extra money to put towards school right now, so I have to take a break”.

Like Robertson, many students are discovering that graduation is taking longer than expected.


In Ohio, the retention rates drop from year to year and only 72.1 percent of students in a four- year college return to campus, said a 2011 Ohio report by Complete College America.

Regarding the class of fall 2007, BGSU had retention rates of 73.3 percent, Jie Wu, assistant director of the BGSU Institutional Research Center said.  The BGSU graduation rate of students finishing in six years is 59 percent, according to Complete College America.

There are three primary reasons why students drop out of BGSU, Gary Swegan, BGSU assistant vice president for enrollment and director of admissions said.  One reason would be that the student didn’t perform adequately enough and were not asked to return.  Another falls into a general category of personal reasons.

“The third major reason, and probably the largest year after year, has something to do with financial,” Swegan said.  “They can’t afford it, inadequate financial aid, didn’t get a scholarship, lost a scholarship, you know, it can be a range of things tied into something around the dollars involved”.

About 75% of students are engaged in a delicate balancing act between school, work, and sometimes family, Tom Sugar, senior vice president of Complete College America said.  Finding a way to balance both work and school is the key problem, Sugar said.

“When you ask them, the number one reason why they’re dropping out is because they’re exhausted,” Sugar said.  “And they’re exhausted because they just can’t keep all the balls in the air anymore”.

After eight years, Joe Minerd, former student at Ohio State University will be finishing his mechanical engineering degree this year.  He left OSU before he could finish his degree and got a job near his hometown doing engineering related work with the company Swagelok.

“It was a lot of little factors that I wasn’t able to deal with,” Minerd said.  “I said I got to go home, I got to quit spending money, I got to quit going to school, I got to figure out what it is I need to make myself a successful adult”.

Minerd continues to work at Swagelok and intends to finish his degree at Cleveland State University in December.

Graduating seniors who took more than four years to graduate BGSU responded in a 2010 survey that changing their major was the main reason among the students for extending enrollment, according to the BGSU Institutional Research Center.  Of the graduating seniors, 48 percent said working while they were enrolled was a reason.

The BGSU retention rate varies depending on gender and ethnicity.  In the fall semester of 2008, 2.3 percent more females returned to the university than males.  In regards to ethnicity, 31.2 percent of African Americans, 31 percent of Hispanic Americans and 26.2 percent of Caucasians did not return for their fall semester in 2008.

Robertson does not wish to be considered a college dropout and plans to return to BGSU in the fall.  She is working to save money to continue her degree in human development and family services.

“I’m obviously behind,” Robertson said.  “But I’ll catch up soon enough- I hope!”

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