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Ithaca-area colleges drop out rate is less than national average

Ithaca College and Cornell University in Ithaca, N.Y. have reported in January higher student retention and graduation rates than the national college average.

Recent data released by Ithaca College shows the retention rate (returning for the second year) for students entering in the fall 2011 semester and returning in fall 2012 is 84.2 percent. Cornell University’s retention rate for the same time period is 96 percent.

The ACT released the 2012 data for National Collegiate Retention and Persistence to Degree Rates, citing private four-year institutions to have a 67.3 percent retention rate.

According to the American Dream 2.0 Report, released on January 24, 46 percent of American college students will not graduate in six years. But Ithaca College graduation rate was 76.7 percent according to the Ithaca College Response to the Common Data Set, 2012-2013. And Cornell University showed a six-year graduation rate of 93 percent, which more than doubles the national college average.

Students are dropping out of school for several reasons, as college tuition rises faster than ever and the stress of students’ workload overwhelms their reason for continuing their education.

The American Dream 2.0 Report reveals that college tuition is increasing more rapidly than the inflation rate, as student borrowing rates have more than doubled over the last decade, from $53 million to $113 million. Due to the increase in tuition prices, students are borrowing more than they can afford, which can result in defaulting on their loans and therefore dropping out of an institution.

For the 2012-13 academic year, Ithaca College raised its tuition to $37,000, which was a 4.7 percent increase over the 2011-2012 academic year’s tuition. Cornell University reported a 4.5 percent increase in tuition in the endowed portion of the college, and a 7.4 percent increase in tuition for the contract colleges for the same time period, according to Bursar Services at the university.

Both colleges offer scholarships and grants to help offset tuition prices, as well as the opportunity for federal and alternative loans according to the college’s websites.

The report recommends changing the $226 billion financial aid system as a possible solution to the financial conflicts affecting students.

Another conflict encouraging students to drop out is associated with their mental health, due to the stress from their workloads and personal situations. Ithaca College defines some of the issues that students deal with in their website for the Center for Counseling and Psychological Services: identity or relationship conflicts, depression, anxiety, substance abuse, body image issues, etc.

The Center offers a program for “mental health crisis prevention” called Pathways. Faculty and staff at the college identify emotional issues in order to refer students to the proper resources.

Visual Resources Curator at Ithaca College, Randi Millman-Brown joined Pathways a year ago since she employs several student assistants and wanted to be aware of the options she could recommend in case of an emergency.

“Students will know they have a person they can talk to,” Millman-Brown said.

Paul Mikowski, a psychologist at Ithaca College’s Counseling and Wellness Center, said there is a correlation between student mental health and retention rates.

“We think there is good reason to believe in the correlation,” he said. “Students take leaves of absence for mental health reasons and we are here to do anything we can to help them.”

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