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Lack of preparation leads to frosh attrition

October 25, 2012

By Brandon Blackwell

Don’t blame Cleveland State’s high freshman attrition rate on the students.

The root of the problem is previous education, said a Cleveland State vice provost.
Strong problem solving skills, a breadth of general knowledge, keen time management and a grasp on the ins-and-outs of college life are necessary for success, said Rosemary Sutton, vice provost for academic programs.

But many students enrolling at Cleveland State right after high school haven’t been equipped with those four skills, making the transition into college a struggle.

“College can be overwhelming for students,” she said. “By the first three to four weeks, many students fall behind.”

The university’s growing population of low-income students coming from inadequate high schools compounds the problem, Sutton said.
So does the autonomy afforded to college students.

“One of the biggest differences between high school and college is that the professors don’t really know who you are,” said freshman Daunte Thomas. “You have to manage your own time, manage your own work.”

The challenges students face in high school often pale in comparison to the challenges faced in college, Thomas said.

Those challenges can quickly overwhelm freshmen.

About 25 percent of first-time freshmen go on academic probation by the end of their first semester at Cleveland State, she said.

Nearly a third of all freshmen will give up and leave Cleveland State. Some will transfer to a community college, others will attend another university, but most will never earn a degree, Sutton said.

The university is working hard to reverse the trends.

“I think we are doing a lot, but it’s a big challenge,” Sutton said.

Half of first-time freshmen are placed into development math and English courses to bridge the gap between high school and college-level coursework.

The Tutoring and Academic Success Center, located in Main Classroom, and the Writing Center, located in Rhodes Tower, offer free academic help to students. Federal TRiO programs provide extra assistance to students with disadvantaged backgrounds.

Utilizing these resources has made acclimating to college a smooth process for Thomas.

“I’m really comfortable right now, and I haven’t fallen behind,” he said. “I know people in my classes and in the residence halls that are not involved in support programs that are struggling. Some of them don’t even know where to find help.”

Cleveland State has made changes to keep students informed.

Campus 411 recently became All-in-1 to beef up information available to students regarding admissions, financial aid and academic help.

The new Starfish software allows students to easily schedule appointments with faculty, advisors and counselors.

“Understanding how gen eds works is ridiculous, so having someone walk me through it is much easier,” said Freshman Randy Bowling, who takes advantage of one-on-one counseling sessions.

Still, students shouldn’t expect to have their hands held.

“You have to understand that this isn’t high school,” Bowling said. “The workload is much different. Just because you don’t have ‘homework,’ it doesn’t mean you don’t have to do work outside of class.”

The work Bowling and Thomas have put into seeking out extra assistance has paid off.
They are excelling academically, and both students plan on returning to Cleveland State for their sophomore year.