Why students leave for other universities

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  • Students leave Marquette for a variety of reasons, including family issues, grades and searching for a school that fits them better.
  • A school's retention rate measures the number of full-time, first-time freshmen that return the following fall.
  • Marquette's retention rate was most recently measured at 89 percent.

Whether looking for a better match or because of forces beyond their control, sometimes students make the decision to leave Marquette.

Although Marquette does not track where each student goes after leaving, a retention rate is a way of gauging how well the school retains its students. Marquette's most recently measured retention rate was 89 percent, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.

The rate measures the percentage of full-time, first-time freshmen that return to a school in the fall, said Gary Levy, associate vice provost for Institutional Research and Assessment. It includes both those who transfer to another school and those who drop out altogether.

Marquette's high retention rate is a good reflection of the university, said Peggy Bloom, vice provost for undergraduate programs and teaching.

"Our retention rate says we're a university that is successfully engaging students in a way that they see this is the school for them," Bloom said. "But I don't like to rest on our laurels. We want to learn what we can do better."

One way the university hopes to improve, Bloom said, is through a self-study of the first-year college experience, with the help of the Foundations of Excellence project of the Policy Center on the First Year of College. Another way to improve is by increasing programs and academic support.

Students sometimes leave Marquette because of family reasons, including financial problems or the death of a loved one, Bloom said. Often the former student will take a job near home, perhaps enrolling at a local community college.

"Sometimes it's not the institution's fault," Levy said.

However, Levy said students should do what's best for them.

"If a student comes here and it's not for them, they should go where they can be happy," Levy said.

Bloom said she does not get the sense that students leave because they dislike Marquette. She cited the residence life experience and variety of student activities as contributors to the school's high retention rate.

"There's a spirit here that I haven't encountered (in other schools)," Bloom said. "For the student willing to reach out a little, there's so much here."

Maggie Fitzgerald was a sophomore in Marquette's College of Education. She transferred to another Jesuit university, Loyola University Chicago, at the beginning of this semester.

Fitzgerald made the switch because she said Loyola is a better fit for her. She wanted to attend a school in a larger city. Fitzgerald also wants to teach in Illinois, so she said it would not have been beneficial to get certification in Wisconsin.

Fitzgerald said she loves it at Loyola so far, but that transferring was a hard decision.

"I knew I would miss everyone at Marquette," Fitzgerald said. "It's stressful, but (the switch) was worth it."

Nate Strahl, formerly a sophomore in the College of Engineering, transferred to Carthage College in Kenosha between the fall and spring semesters this year.

Strahl decided to transfer because of academic troubles related to his chemistry and calculus classes. He had wanted to switch to the College of Business Administration since the middle of first semester his freshman year. Strahl's advisor had encouraged him to retake the classes he had failed and continue in the engineering program, refusing to sign the papers necessary to switch colleges, Strahl said.

Strahl retook the two classes, passing the chemistry course, but again failing calculus. He was put on academic probation last semester and eventually suspended for failing to meet the engineering program's academic standards, Strahl said.

Strahl was left with few options. In order to transfer to the College of Business Administration, he would have had to appeal the suspension, apply for reinstatement in the College of Engineering and wait until the end of the spring semester to switch colleges, he said. Strahl decided his best choice was to start over somewhere else.

"I didn't want to go through all that hassle (of reinstatement)," Strahl said. "I have been going through all that since freshman year."

Although Strahl received some assistance with his situation, he said the College of Engineering was not very helpful overall.

"I felt that people didn't really care what happened (to me)," Strahl said. "I felt like my advisor did not want to do his job. I felt like they were pushing me to find the answers myself, rather than knowing them."

Under different circumstances, Strahl probably would have stayed and enjoyed his time at Marquette, he said.

"If I would have been able to transfer to the College of Business (Administration), my experience at Marquette would have been better," Strahl said.

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