The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus


Retention director seeks input from students

Director of Retention and Strategic Planning Anthony Tillman asked senators Tuesday why students may be leaving SMU and what can be done to slow the trend.

Although recently released reports show an increase of 0.29 percent in university-wide enrollment from spring 2007 to this semester, there was a 2.3 percent decrease in undergraduate enrollment from spring 2007. Every year since 1996, SMU has lost an average of 52 students from the fall to the spring of their first year, according to Tillman.

“Some of you may have heard that SMU is not as academically challenging as it should be,” Tillman said. “Some may have heard that the social climate is not welcoming for all students. Some may have heard that it is too expensive.”

These responses were gathered from a survey of over 600 first years who were asked to rate their experience at SMU.

Tillman said two categories of the survey stood out: overall satisfaction (77 percent of students replied satisfied or very satisfied) and if they could start over again, would they still come to SMU (78 percent said they would probably or definitely still come to SMU).

Although data shows that a majority of first years are satisfied with the freshman experience at SMU, not all campus newcomers share that sentiment.

“Everyone has a different experience, but there are similar areas that all students share,” Tillman said.

The trend of losing students can be turned around, Tillman said, by incorporating campus events for those who may feel unwelcome when they arrive on the Hilltop.

“As silly as it may sound, having an event three weeks into school that gathers students from out of state who might be homesick [could help the situation],” Tillman said.

Another challenge is that SMU’s income is highly driven by tuition.

“We use part of our endowment to help pay for our cost, but we do not have nearly as large of an endowment as other fine universities like ours. When we lose 150 students every year, we have based our budgets on having them at the university and having their tuition.

“We need to look at this as an opportunity to keep students. Right now, our revenue is too dependent on our tuition rates,” he said.

Tillman hopes that information from the surveys will help address the core of the problem of “getting students connected” to the SMU experience.

To combat the problem, senators suggested the ideas of requiring all incoming freshmen to take Wellness I in the fall of their first year and requiring every student to attend Mustang Corral (more easily affordable to students if financial barriers are removed) as great ways to ensure that students stay at SMU.

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