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13 October 2006

JSU Joins Study of Student Retention

Gregory Fitch knows the importance of the first year of college. A college freshman at 17, he said he was too immature. Lectures bored him. With a 0.9 grade-point average, Fitch dropped out and entered the Army.

“It took me a few years of introspection to go back to school,” said Fitch, now executive director of the Alabama Commission on Higher Education. “I think it’s important for people to know, if you just tried once and it wasn’t an appropriate fit, don’t give up. You’re still going to need some kind of training beyond high school.”

Jacksonville State University administrators hope to better understand the freshman experience with a three-year study of students’ first year of college.

“That first year is the determining factor for success,” said Alicia Simmons, director of JSU’s Office of Institutional Research and Assessment. “And of course with retention, you have to stay in school to be successful and graduate.”

JSU is one of 37 colleges and universities participating in a study by Pennsylvania State University’s Center for the Study of Higher Education through a grant for education research from the nonprofit Spencer Foundation. According to the study’s Web site, more than 60 percent of college-bound students who withdraw within five years will do so in their first year. Also, the losses are highest among underrepresented, low-income or first-generation college students. And interaction between freshmen and admissions counselors is rare.

See story at The Anniston Star's website: .

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