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Decision to remain at Ohio State tough for some students

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Though some Ohio State officials insist the university’s 93 percent freshmen retention rate shows OSU is doing something right, the decision of whether to return wasn’t easy for some students.

Karli Shill is one such student. She transferred to OSU from Chapman University in California for Spring Semester 2013, but wasn’t happy with her decision.

“I really was just a body amongst 60,000 others,” said

Shill decided to transfer back to Chapman for Fall Semester 2013 and is now a third-year in sociology there.

Shill, whose parents live in the Columbus area, said after paying out-of-state tuition during her first year of college at Chapman, her parents had faced financial difficulties.

“I realized that in order to make it easier on my family, I should transfer to Ohio State because I would receive in-state tuition and have to take out much fewer student loans,” she said.

But although Shill attempted to join student organizations, she said her position as a transfer student made it hard to find her niche.

“I never really felt like I found my place on the campus,” she said.

Shill’s situation might be familiar to those who make up the 7 percent of students that leave OSU, Provost and Executive Vice President Joseph Steinmetz said.

“It’s not the case that they’re students that drop out of college. A fair majority of that 7 percent go on and transfer to other schools,” he said in an interview with The Lantern April 1. “I think that’s a big win (that of) 7 percent that don’t stay, they’re at least continuing on their education somewhere.”

And although some students end up leaving OSU, the university is working to boost its first-year retention rate from 93 percent to 95 percent in upcoming years.

In order to reach this goal, Dolan Evanovich, the vice president for strategic enrollment planning, said OSU plans to focus on personalizing students’ experiences and working harder to get them connected on campus.

“For each student it’s different,” he said, “(but) supporting them in their transition, helping them have a good first semester, getting them connected and involved, that really is our strategy.”

And unlike Shill, some students who had contemplated transferring out of OSU found reasons to stay.

Joanna Twist, a second-year in biochemistry from West Virginia, said she thought about transferring her first year because of a tough workload as an engineering major in the Fundamentals of Engineering Honors program.

“It was extremely difficult and I would be in the computer lab as early as 5 a.m. and wouldn’t get back to my dorm from studying until midnight,” Twist said. “I had never been so stressed in my life and I really wanted to go back home where I could de-stress and be reunited with all of my friends.”

Twist said she decided to remain at OSU because she switched her major to biochemistry, had a scholarship and got involved on campus. She said now she’s happier and less stressed.

“Ohio State has so many opportunities to offer to students,” she said.

Twist has been a leader of Buck-I-SERV, participated in undergraduate research and is a peer mentor in the chemistry department.

“I have something good going here and I would hate to leave now that I am so involved in these amazing opportunities,” she said.

But students like Nathan Dean, a first-year in international studies, remained at OSU for different reasons.

Dean, a member of Army ROTC, said his dream had always been to go to West Point Academy.

Although he said he has often considered transferring to West Point and always wanted the more structured environment that a military school typically aims to provide, OSU has allowed him to create his own structure.

“(By choosing ROTC) I can still become an officer in the military after college,” he said.

In addition, he said OSU’s size and community has challenged him to become more socially engaged.

“I wasn’t really good at the social aspects of things. Being immersed in a big school has really has helped,” he said.

Although Dean said OSU was not his first choice and he has not ruled out transferring in the future, he plans to remain at least a second year.

“Over time, my opinions have kind of changed. I like OSU a lot more now,” he said. “There’s plenty of opportunities here, there’s a lot of people to talk to and a lot of things that I want to do.”

For Steinmetz, OSU’s 93 percent first-year retention rate reflects that, like Dean, the majority of students are making connections and seeking out opportunities.

“The students that are coming here are finding what they want,” Steinmetz said. “It can always get better, but we’re doing pretty well.”

6 comments

  1. I think if I was Karli’s father I would tell her to “suck it up”. As a sociology major, she’s going to make $40k a year as a social worker. Chapman tuition is $43k per year versus $20k per year at OSU. So she is going to spend over $80k more for tuition at Chapman, and as a father and OSU graduate, I wouldn’t pay that much more for Chapman, so she would have to take out loans. She is going to have to dedicate at least 10% of her salary for 20+ years just to pay it off, not even counting room and board. From observing other’s experiences over the past couple of decades, I am pretty confident that in 10 years this is a decision that Karli will regret.

  2. When I started at OSU I was 400 miles from home (out-of-state student) and didn’t know anyone in Columbus. I lived in Morrill Tower, but joined a fraternity and instantly had connections to upperclassmen in my major, intramural athletics, and social contacts, both male and female. I moved into the fraternity house my sophomore year and lived there until I graduated. If I hadn’t gotten involved, I might not have wanted to continue at OSU, but there were so many things to do and people to become friends with, that it was a great environment for a shy guy from the east coast. Perhaps Karli didn’t get involved?

  3. I can see where Brian is coming from, but sometimes overall happiness trumps financial sense. It’s quite an American phenomenon for parents to send their children to out of state public schools for no reason other than wanting to leave the nest or liking the school’s environment. I’m sure many of those students are taking out loans to afford out of state tuition + room & board + greek life/books and other expenses. Our undergraduate experiences really shape a person before they move into the world of concrete careers and graduate schools. I know Chapman helped me with my specific experiences in ways that could have caused me to leave larger schools. My class sizes this semester are 10, 14, 25 & 45, and ALL my professors since freshman year have known my full name. Bet you $20 your daughter can’t say the same! All in all, a student must be happy, experience growth, and stay motivated to become successful and educated. Where they find that is up to them and their family to decide.

  4. Sure, let’s ignore the economics, let’s always live for our short term happiness. Why worry about or plan for long term debt, or saving for a house, or paying for our kids college, or divorce, or child support, or layoffs, or medical bills, or retirement? Things will always work out, won’t they? And when I’m 60, divorced, living in a rental unit, unable to go anywhere decent on vacation, unable to retire from my job as a social worker, disillusioned by the “great unwashed masses” I have to work with, I’ll just close my eyes and think about those good old times I had at Chapman and it will all be worth it. Yeah, sure!

  5. I agree with you in that those problems are incredibly real and prevalent, heck my parents drill that into me every time I see them, and I’m a Biology major! However, I disagree with the last statement. You rarely hear any alumni 20 years after college gushing about all the friends they made in community college before they transferred and all the cool people they met as a transfer in a 50,000 person school living in some off campus apartment. It can be difficult. My parents still hang out with their undergrad friends every weekend, even after immigrating to the US, graduate school, raising a child etc. By your rules, nobody should go to medical school either because nursing school is cheaper! This isn’t a battle between private vs. public school. I can understand that people value different things when it comes to making college decisions so I think we can agree to disagree on that point. The question posed by this article is why do people leave a university? For some people, its finances, and for a lot of other people, it’s a lack of connection and disillusionment with what they first thought was a good fit.

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