Frosh dropout rates, entrance averages on the rise

By Andrew Barbero

Think going to university is hard these days? Just try getting in.

The University of Calgary’s Office of Institutional Analysis recently released it’s annual report profiling the university’s full-time frosh students. The report outlines first-year students’ background and level of completion.

“We’ve done one of these every year for the last number of years,” said OIA senior analyst Judy Roche. “It really captures the frosh students.”

Two of the more noteworthy findings made in the report show that students entering the U of C with an average of 85 per cent or higher has almost doubled in the past decade, from 19.1 per cent in 1996 to 40.3 per cent in 2006.

The number of first-year students required to withdraw for academic reasons is also up nearly 2 per cent, sitting at 5.9 per cent.

“Generally speaking, the entrance requirements have been on the incline,” said Roche. “But I also think it’s a way that the university is working well. There’s a fine line between accessibility and drawing students.”

While some worry qualified candidates are being turned away, others wonder if the increased averages speak to the quality of education provided.

“I think that the entrance average going up is a great thing for the U of C in some ways,” said Students’ Union vice-president academic Shannon O’Connor. “There [are] a bunch of students with a 75 per cent [who] used to be able to get into university, and they probably should be able to go to university. We want to attract great students and high school averages are the only fair way to measure a student’s academic success, but it comes with some drawbacks.”

O’Connor is more concerned with the frosh withdrawal and dropout rate.

“It’s always troubling when students are required to withdraw because it means they aren’t succeeding academically,” said O’Connor. “I don’t know what it could be a function of; it’s difficult to speculate because there have been increased academic services around campus. U of C 101 has been looking at expanding some programming all throughout the first-year so that students have a better chance of succeeding.”

O’Connor believes off-campus factors play a part.

“It could be a function of higher tuition costs and students needing to work more, and not spending enough time on their studies,” O’Connor noted. “It’s easy to speculate, but it’s difficult to speculate correctly.”

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