Utah State U. starts program to retain freshmen

By By U Wire

By U Wire

LOGAN?No one ever said being a freshman was easy.

With leaving home, new people, harder classes and many more adjustments, Utah State University retains only 66 percent of its first-year students according to the December 2001 Enrollment Management Progress Report.

This percentage is too low, Joyce Kinkead, vice provost said, and USU is putting plans into action to improve retention rates.

One such program aimed specifically at keeping promising freshmen at USU is Cream of the Crop. Freshmen with an ACT score higher than 24 while meeting other academic and extra-curricular requirements are now invited to be a part of the program, she said.

Kinkead said more than 900 of 2,459 are in the program this year. The purpose of Cream of the Crop is to simply better the undergraduate experience.

According to a letter sent to Cream of the Crop parents from President Kermit L. Hall, students will receive special invitations to cultural, academic, social and athletic events as well as be a part of focus groups to identify problems on campus.

“We’re trying to be pro-active rather than passive. We need to know what is good and bad about being a first-year student at USU, Kinkead said. “If we know what the problem is then we can deal with it.”

Kinkead has held “bull sessions” as well as sent out email questionnaires where Cream of the Crop students can speak their mind about problems they are having at school. Many students have given feedback to the school and changes are already being made.

“Right away things are being done. It helps me so much to determine improvements that need to be made Kinkead said. For instance, I knew immediately that we needed to fix the bottleneck occurring in general education classes.”

Aside from identifying the negative, Kinkead said the feedback from Cream of the Crop students has also allowed the university to thank professors who students have mentioned as being very helpful. Feedback, whether positive or negative, is shared with deans and department heads to aid in providing Cream of the Crop students with proper advisement and more opportunities.

Rachel Cooksey, a freshman majoring in psychology, is a Cream of the Crop student and has found the experience helpful.

Cooksey said she found her first semester at USU quite challenging and frustrating. She had a hard time academically with many classes and professors.

“I didn’t have a particularly swell semester, but it made my day to hear from the ‘higher ups’ of the university,” Cooksey said.

Cream of the Crop gave Cooksey the opportunity to tell the university what had gone wrong for her.

“I got a personal email from Dr. Kinkead in response to my replies to her questions, and she gave me a lot of advice and suggestions to make this semester a little smoother,” Cooksey said.

Kinkead reassures that all students, Cream of the Crop or not, are important to USU. The program is focused on a small group of students due to resources, she said.

U Wire