Why is FGCU losing so many of its freshmen?
Published: Friday, July 23, 2010
Updated: Friday, July 23, 2010 09:07
Ever wonder why so many freshmen disappear after their first year? The freshman dropout rate at FGCU is usually brushed off as the classic case of high school grads not being able to hack it, but looking closer there are a variety of issues contributing to this phenomenon.
Everywhere where at FGCU you see swarms of freshmen, but then the next year more than a quarter of them leave.
Studies conducted on college freshmen reveal that about one out of five freshmen will not return the next year, compared to about one out of four at FGCU.
Although the national average is relatively close to FGCU's average, there are some obvious factors that make our university's freshmen dropout rate much higher than it should be.
This week the opinion staff looks at the different sides of this problem and each writer offers their solution to the different aspects.
One issue of freshmen leaving is that many incoming freshmen do not want to be here. A third of freshmen say that FGCU was their second choice university. Many freshmen choose not to stay because FGCU was not their first choice and are only looking to transfer. Since FGCU accepts over half of all applications it makes it a great starter school for those who were not able to get accepted to their first choice school. Many students will apply to their first choice even before obtaining their AA. They do this just to show the school that rejected them that they can handle college course work. I think a possible solution would be to make FGCU a little harder to get into. Perhaps raising the minimal GPA, requiring more extracurricular activities, or at least not accepting everyone as easy as a lady of the night. However I do not think that the policies will change anytime soon, since we feel a need to increase student growth. Although we are failing to keep up with such growth. I truly believe that our school can become as big or even better then some of the other state schools. However to accomplish this we need to have people who want to be here, not just here killing time.
The transfer rate for FGCU is the highest in the state; almost every student knows this. Many factors contribute to this, the biggest being there is nothing to do here. Most campuses have things for students to do right on campus or located in areas where there is a lot of activity for college students to enjoy. At the University of Florida, their food court includes Wendy's, Subway, Chick-fil-A, Taco Bell, Einstein's Bros. Bagels and Starbucks Coffee. Moe's Southwest Grill and Chili's Too, in addition to four all you can eat places. There are also nutritious and vegetarian options (Voted in the Top 10 Best Vegetarian-Friendly Colleges in the United States by PETA three years in a row), as well as special treats like yogurt smoothies, gourmet coffee, and delicious pastries and desserts. The arts program is amazing with two museums right on campus, with a gallery for student works to be displayed. Six theaters put on performances during the year, each more spectacular to then the last. Even Student Government gets involved, which is a lot more than I can say about our Student Government. This is only a small portion of what is seen at other universities. So why can this kind of thing not come to FGCU? One of the major reasons is this campus is environmentally centered. Most students do not know this until they take University Colloquium (required course) that FGCU cannot build on two-thirds of the land they own. In fact, Ben Hill Griffin III had to pay more than 2 million dollars extra to preserve the land for panthers and other wildlife. In the end though, what really should matter is the kind of instruction you are receiving, whether it is right for you, not because of what there is to do on campus. While I too like to go out and have a good time, that does not mean I need fancy places to do it in. There are many events on campus that I attend that are free of charge and very fun to go to. In this current economy, I do not understand why going out is a priority for college students, since it can end up being very costly. Support the things here on campus; the waterfront is a luxury to us. Not many have that since they are landlocked. Be happy about that.
The return rate for students living on-campus is between 40-50 percent and all of us could count up more than a few people that we know who are leaving, or have left FGCU. The million-dollar question still remains: Why? What I have scraped up in my head and train of thought is maybe that there is too much on-campus housing options. For such a small school, close to 10,000 students, over 2,000 students live on-campus, which dampers a college party-life lifestyle. Now that leaves about 8,000 students who don't live on-campus, but that is the other beauty of our school, commuters. According to a letter written by the Vice President of Student Affairs in 2006, 25 percent of the student body commutes from Cape Coral, Collier and Charlotte counties. That leaves only about 50 percent of the student body who live off-campus in the area. Maybe the off-campus-housing situation doesn't present an atmosphere that most expect. There are not many options of smaller houses for rent like Orlando or Tallahassee would provide. Maybe the college apartments that most kids live in are monitored more closely than students would like. There is something that casts a "boring" label on FGCU, and to most kids that means lack of parties and entertainment. Perhaps there is more to students transferring than lack of parties, but from whom I hear from, that remains priority number one.
William Walter Harris III
FGCU is different from most state universities in that it's located near a small town. There's not a large population in Estero, about 10,000, nor are there as many living opportunities as let's say Tallahassee or Jacksonville, which may be affecting freshmen decisions. Many other state universities offer various housing opportunities such as Greek living and scholarship housing for both men and women. It's hard for many freshmen to stay another year if their finances don't allow them because of expensive housing. Also it's not easy to for visitors to get to the university. Whether it's driving 140 miles from Tampa or 130 miles from Palm Beach, not very many parents or friends are excited to make the long journey here. Just the long drive for many freshmen living in north Florida or on the east coast is enough to turn some away from attending a second year. The lack of any sort of mass transportation slows the potential growth of our university and turns away visitors. It's too bad that there isn't a train or second highway to help the traffic flow in Lee County. I think that our university's location is a major reason why the freshmen dropout rate here is higher than the average state university. Hopefully in the future, FGCU can offer more affordable housing and lobby for more efficient transportation.