Overall enrollment drops slightly but retention rates reach an all-time high

Jordan Smith Managing Editor

Although this year brought in a record-high freshman class, overall university enrollment has dropped slightly, according to university officials.

This years’ freshman class has 2306 students, making it the largest freshman class ever. SDSU set a range to increase the freshman class to between 2200 and 2300 freshman, according to Marysz Rames, Vice President of Student Affairs. This number is based on being able to offer a quality education. “2306 students is pushing this range,” Rames said.

 This years’ retention rate for second-year students came in at 78.7 percent, which is the largest retention rate to date. The retention rate is up from 73.5 percent in 2011, according to Rames. The university wants to keep increasing the retention rate to reach their goal of 80 percent. They do so by recruiting students that are fit for the institution and offer help for the students to earn degrees. There are goals in place to grow the graduate program area as well.

“When enrollment and retention is down, you have to live with that number for four or five years, not just one,” Rames said.

With the growth of the freshman class, the new residence halls offered space for growth of students. The residence halls are at 97 percent capacity, according to Director of Residential Life Jeff Hale.

“The vacancies give us options as students need room changes. It is fun to be full, but it is nice to have the options of a few empty rooms,” Hale said. “Considering we added 800 new beds, this is great news.”

In total, university enrollment is down 29 students from fall 2012.  This decrease may be due in part to fewer non-degree seeking students enrolling in courses, as well as SDSU no longer offering a particular student program in high schools.

However, the university has a total of 11,542 degree-seeking students, which is up 72 students from last year, Rames said. Full-time equivalent students are up 67.4 percent, which means that more students – both undergrad and graduate level students – are taking larger course loads. Graduate enrollment also increased for the masters and PhD programs.

While the university delivers to non degree-seeking students, such as a teachers taking a single course for rectification, the main focus of the university is students who are getting a masters, baccalaureate or doctoral degree.

The university has very strategic enrollment plans, and also retention. SDSU keeps incoming freshman in mind and offers lots of support.

“The rising retention rate strongly suggests the Student Success program, now in its third year, is keeping students on track for degree completion,” President David Chicoine said.

The addition of new residence halls allow for all 2013 high school graduate students are living on this side of campus along with almost all second year students, and the upper classmen and other first year students are living on the other side of campus. This should help retention rates, according to Hale.

The northwest side of campus is now where second-year students and beyond live. “It has been found that first-year students who lived on the northwest side of campus didn’t do as well,” Rames said. By moving all first year students to one side of campus where they have many resources available to them and more access to other students their age, the hope is for greater student success.

The new residence halls also allowed students to be housed in residential rooms, and the dayrooms to be restored to a community space. Before this, four students were assigned to live in each of these rooms, because residential life needed to find a space to house students.

According to Rames, the new residence halls were built for three purposes. To handle the overflow, offer the northwest side of campus for upper division students and handle growth of the university.

“We always look at ways to do things better and offer options that provide students and make them interested in attending SDSU,” Hale said. Residential life is a major contributor to enrollment recruitment, retention and academic success, according to Hale.