It is expected at Northwestern that a new semester brings new classes, new goals, new majors and new roommates. Following the Fall 2010 semester, an unexpected number of students found themselves in a new environment: off campus. NW had an increase in students who did not return for the spring semester.
In the freshman class alone, 37 of 351 students left campus. This is 10.5% of the freshman class, which is an increase in comparison with the three previous freshman classes. The classes of ‘07, ‘08 and ‘09 had attrition rates of 7.4%, 8.5% and 6%, respectively.
According to Charlie Couch, Director of Institutional Research, it is typical of students to leave during or after their freshman year.
“There are a whole host of reasons freshmen leave,” Couch said. “Students struggle with being homesick, the academics are too challenging, or there is a family crisis back home. Students may also decide that NW does not have the right program or major.”
Academics played the principal role in loss of students for this past semester. Patrick Hummel, the Director of Residence Life, said, “More people faced academic suspension than in other years.”
Hummel expressed that there were additional reasons regarding the loss of students. “There were six disciplinary dismissals this past semester, which is more than what we had for all of last year.”
Hummel is unsure of why a larger number of students were dismissed for disciplinary issues. “We have found that poor academics can be linked to behavioral problems. It is also possible that we caught more people violating rules.”
NW furthermore had an increase in withdrawals. “Sixteen students left before the end of the semester for various personal reasons,” said Hummel.
“Despite the increase in students leaving campus, NW does have a better-than-average retention rate nationally,” said Hummel. “We have good, solid student development, firm spiritual formation and very strong academics. “
A recent campus development to assist in upholding retention is the Mile Marker e-mail that is sent to students. This development was created by the enrollment management team and is tailored to each year of students. “The goal was to communicate to students according to their needs,” said Couch.
Hummel believes that there are other Residence Life programs and student activities that help students engage and transition into college. “Students have the opportunity to get involved during orientation, Clash of the Classes, and even through athletic teams.” Hummel also stated, “Students who get engaged in the first six weeks are more likely to succeed academically and stay at school.”
Hummel is very optimistic and is looking ahead to a fresh start provided by a new semester. “With a new dean of enrollment and residence hall on the way, we have a lot to look forward to for this upcoming year.”