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Berkman: Retention, graduation rates challenging

By Brandon Blackwell

October 11, 2012

Cleveland State’s largest freshman class could deliver the university’s highest level of attrition — at least if trends continue.

About a third of Cleveland State freshmen leave the university after their first year, proving to be one of the campus’ greatest challenges, said President Ronald Berkman during his State of the University address on Oct. 4.

After touting a list of achievements — including tuition costs below the state average, the application pool reaching a 30-year-high and an increase in out-of-state enrollment — Berkman glossed over the university’s core challenges.

But retention and graduation rates weren’t ignored.

Last year, Cleveland State ranked last among Ohio’s four-year institutions in their ability to keep students until graduation.

If the university doesn’t improve, the 1,580-student Class of 2016, which is 20 percent larger than last year’s freshman class, is at risk of being earmarked as the class with the most significant number of dropouts.

Berkman said the university is working hard to hold on to —and engage — its students.
“We are up to the challenge,” he said.

Part of his strategy is to add nine full-time lecturers to the faculty.

“If our graduation rate is going to increase, which it must increase, students need the focus and energy of full-time employees,” Berkman said.

The president is also growing student involvement, which he says will aid in retention and graduation rates.

He recently allocated an additional $400,000 for funding student activities and organizations.

Another challenge facing the university is bred from one of its successes.
Cleveland State’s influx of non-commuter students has outgrown its number of residences.

Even with the addition of the Campus Village, more than 140 students are on a residence waitlist.

Berkman downplayed the obstacle.

“I’m told this is a good problem to have,” he said.

Follow Brandon Blackwell on Twitter @blackwelltweets