Grad. retention rates fall, Emerson stays steady

by Beacon Staff • September 30, 2009

The rising cost of an education, coupled with a dismal job market, poses a challenge

to students who are attempting to pay for their own schooling.,College can often seem like a bubble, insulating its students from the harshness of reality. But reality is hitting schools around the country in a big way this year, as many are struggling to retain their students.

The rising cost of an education, coupled with a dismal job market, poses a challenge

to students who are attempting to pay for their own schooling. Some may have no alternative but to drop out altogether.

According to an article from the New York Times, the University of Massachusetts

had only a 33 percent graduation rate this past academic year. Stony Brook University in New York did slightly better with 59 percent. University of Alaska's graduation rate was a dismal 16 percent, according to a report by the American Enterprise Institute.

However far-reaching the trend, it has reached Emerson in unique ways.

The college has taken steps to alleviate the economic pressure on its students. This year's tuition increase was the lowest since 2001, and financial aid was increased by 12.4 percent. Emerson's retention rate increased this past academic year to 90 percent, up from 88 percent in 2007.

Eric Sykes, director of institutional research, said he does not believe the economy affects students' decisions to stay at Emerson.

The schools with the highest graduation rates tend to be both academically rigorous and prohibitively expensive. Harvard tops the list with a 98 percent graduation rate. Other high-ranking schools include Swathmore College, Amherst College and Yale University.

The difference between these two groups is due in part to the economic status of their students.

A New York Times article addressing this disparity said low-income students tend to apply to cheaper state schools. However, when these same students have to cope with a recession, they are unable to pay their tuitions.

In addition, public schools are funded by the government of the state in which they are located. To keep retention rates and revenue high, schools across the country have had to drastically rework their financial aid policies.

However, not every Emersonian can weather tough times. In spring 2009, freshman Danielle Dubay-Betters was relying on student loans during her second semester at the college. When she defaulted on her loans in mid-January, Betters, a writing, literature, and publishing major, received an e-mail from Emerson telling her she would not be able to finish the semester.

After taking a semester off to work three jobs, Betters enrolled at the University of Maine, which costs her about $17,000 per semester.

Derek Anderson started at Emerson last year as a print journalism major, but was also forced to transfer after his first year at the school. Anderson was paying his own way through college, but he did not receive any financial aid for the 2009- 2010 academic year.

Although Anderson now attends Suffolk University, he regrets the fact that his financial situation forced him to leave Emerson.

"I just wanted to go to school, but I wish I could still be at Emerson," he said.