Drop out rates revealed

Just over 23 per cent of University of Calgary undergraduate students drop out or are required to withdraw in the 10-year period after beginning their degree, according to a study from the U of C Office of Institutional Analysis.

The OIA introduced these new statistics in addition to time to graduation rates for each faculty in a study released earlier this month, entitled Student Progression to Degree.

The study examined full-time students who entered university directly from high school over a 10-year period, focusing on the number of students required to withdraw versus those who withdrew for other reasons. The data showed a slight decrease in drop out rates over the 10-year study time, from a high of 18.9 per cent of first-year drop outs in 1997 to 15.1 per cent in 2004.

“This is a group of students that came in 10 years ago; it isn’t necessarily a representation of the current group of students,” cautioned Judy Roche, OIA senior analyst. “Entry grades are higher than they used to be, which could indicate a greater amount of student persistence.”

The study also focused on the average amount of time it takes students from each faculty to complete their degree. In 2006, students in the faculty of communication and culture took the longest to complete their degree, with an average time of 5.8 years. Students in social work were the speediest at an average time of 4.4 years.

Different factors influence the length of time it takes to complete a degree, noted Students’ Union vice-president academic Shannon O’Connor.

“Many students need to work to pay for school,” said O’Connor. “Going abroad or switching majors can increase the amount of time someone needs to finish their degree.”

In order to tackle student drop out rates some faculties are taking initiatives to help students in their first year. The faculty of communication and culture has created a three-pronged strategy to introduce first-year students to university and learning and foster a welcoming atmosphere.

Among the strategies in the plan, communication and culture administrative staff call every first year student to inquire about their university experience. Comms also holds small group seminars for every student in the faculty.

“We are trying to teach students to think academically and to take things apart in a scholarly way,” said communication and culture associate dean Doug Brent.

The university is continuing with its initiatives to lower drop out rates with continued student support, including monthly SU lectures on study skills, and continued study of the problem.

“We want students to feel like they’re in an institution that cares about them,” said O’Connor.

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