By Joncara Marshall (Whetstone Contributor)
Wesley College has a major problem: keeping students from leaving for other schools or dropping out after attending only one semester or one year.
The college got some money and a consulting agency to help them keep those students when it received a $100,000 grant last summer from The Jesse Ball DuPont Foundation, and used the money to hire Performa Higher Education, an education consulting agency, to see why students leave.
“We want students to stay and graduate and do better,” said Mary Alice Ozechoski, dean of students. “That’s what all colleges work for.”
Most colleges have a hard time keeping students from first to second year and second to third year. But it has been really hard at Wesley in the past couple of years, as the school has lost about half of its first-time, full-time students.
The college was encouraged this spring semester, when it retained about three-quarters of its students from the fall.
To continue this trend, the consultants, PHE, have suggested that the college improve its admissions policy, and recruit higher-achieving students and severely limiting the admission of lower-achieving ones.
PHE, which called its Wesley plan, “Moving the Needle,” said it had surveyed fall semester students and faculty, both through email and a three-day campus visit.
Wesley received the results of PHE’s findings Jan. 11.
PHE said Wesley was doing some things right, praising its Academic Resource Center, strong student leaders, and faculty.
Charlene Stephens, director of the department of academic support, said she is proud of the ARC.
“It feels good to work hard and be recognized for it,” she said.
The results of the survey showed that students enjoyed the small campus, small class sizes and the faculty and student relationship.
The agency also gave 10 recommendations to help improve students’ Wesley experience, including improvements in campus safety and an early alert system for at risk students.
Frances Riddle, the coordinator of academic advising, said she was not surprised by PHE findings.
“Performa was kind of like the little kid in the ‘Emperor’s New Clothes’,” Riddle said. “There were things that we should have known and knew. We needed someone from the outside to bring it to our attention.”
Dr. Patricia Dwyer, vice president of academic affairs, said she also was not surprised by some of the recommendations made by PHE.
“Analyzing the data confirmed what we sensed were issues.” Dwyer said.
Wesley will begin to start and plan new ideas and improve old systems, including putting financial aid and the business office on the same floor, Dwyer said.
“Students will see a significant change,” Ozechoski said.
Students confirmed both the positive and negative findings of the survey.
“I like the community and the small classes,” said Erica Martin, a transferred senior and vice president of the National Society of Leadership and Success. “Students get one on one attention from the professors.”
But Martin was not happy that some of her credits did not transfer.
“I have to start all over again.” Martin said.
Others said they enjoy the size of the campus and classes and the professors.
But they also feel that there is nothing to do on campus.
“I wish they had more to do here on weekends,” said freshman Janea Jones. “I sit in my room bored watching TV.”
Jones said she was considering transferring to a historically black college or university because of the different events that are held at them.
Shane Simpson, another freshman and business and psychology major, plans to leave Wesley after his sophomore year to go to Penn State.
But he would consider staying, “If I had a stronger connection with people instead of them acting fake.”