Common Staff Writer
Shawnee State University (SSU) President Dr. Rita Rice Morris in her weekly Friday Letter indicated preliminary enrollment numbers for the fall semester show a two percent decrease in enrollment.
“While the 15th day enrollment report is our official snapshot of the semester, our preliminary numbers indicate a two percent decrease in enrollment this year,” Morris stated. “Despite a shrinking population of high school graduates in the state 1700 fewer graduates in 2012 over 2011 and in our primary markets of Scioto, Lawrence, Adams, and Pike Counties more than 220 fewer graduates in 2012. We attracted more first-time freshmen and transfer students this fall, the result of strategies we have been implementing to expand our marketing and recruitment areas.”
She stated the focus will now turn to retention.
“Our focus over the past several months has been developing ways to keep these students here through graduation,” Morris said.
In January the SSU Board of Trustees endorsed a plan by the Ohio Board of Regents Chancellor Jim Petro to increase the school’s course completion rates and the number of degrees awarded.
“The success of our students has always been a priority of this university. The history has always been we would meet students where they are and we would get them as far as we would get them. Sometimes that took 10 or 11 years, we did not initially worry too much about the fact it took some students 10 or 12 years for them to graduate,” Morris said. “A lot has changed over the last eight to 10 years. Now there is a great financial pressure to move people through a lot faster. We have identified improving our retention and graduation rates as a priority and it’s now being linked to some of our funding.”
SSU and Central State University are the only universities in Ohio that receive a special supplement in the state’s budget. SSU’s supplement has been as high as $4 million; it is currently at $2.4 million.
With the passage of House Bill (HB) 153, Petro was required to submit a plan to state legislators. The plan was to ensure the “Shawnee State Supplement will be used to promote the goals of improving course completion, increasing the number of degree conferred and furthering the university’s mission of service to the Appalachian region,” Petro wrote in a letter to the school.
Shawnee State’s goals, beginning with new students in the fall of 2013, are to improve the rate of successfully completed courses by one to three percent for each class for the next 10 years, increase associate and/or baccalaureate degrees by one to three percent for each class entering in the successive 10-year period and to further its service to the Appalachian region by strengthening relationships with key regional employees and school districts.
Dr. Watson Scott Swail, a retention consultant has been commissioned by the Chancellor to work with SSU in their retention efforts.
Morris stated there were a number of programs launched recently to help first year students.
“Two of the new pilot programs just launched, ‘Emerging Leaders’ and ‘Commuter Advisors,’ are aimed at helping students become more connected. Through Emerging Leaders, twenty new students will have the opportunity to develop their leadership abilities through workshops, presentations, service projects, and a retreat, creating an opportunity for first-year students to become more actively engaged in the campus community. Through Commuter Advisors, every new commuter student is assigned a peer advisor who will help answer questions and help new students transition to college life,” Morris stated.
She said a Bridge program was also launched over the summer. The program is an online learning program designed to help new students in college-level math classes.
“Dr. Brenda Haas, Dean of the University College, has been named SSU’s Retention Coordinator and is working to lead and collaborate efforts to improve student success throughout campus,” Morris stated.