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SMC draws, loses transfer students

Meehan, Kelly | Wednesday, April 7, 2004

As Saint Mary’s draws transfer students from other colleges and universities, it also has to balance losing some of its own students who decide to transfer, typically in either their freshman or sophomore year. The average freshman to sophomore year retention rate at Saint Mary’s is between 83 and 85 percent. Due to privacy rights, it remains confidential to where students transfer, however around 50 percent claim to have transferred to another private college. Approximately 22 percent of students transferring out of Saint Mary’s in the past reported to the College their decision to enroll at Notre Dame -many citing the convenience of its close proximity. According to Michael Gantt, coordinator of transfer admissions at Notre Dame, of the 41 Saint Mary’s students who applied to transfer for the 2003 fall semester, 24 were admitted and 22 enrolled. Gantt said there has been a slight increase over past years in the number of Saint Mary’s students that apply, are accepted and eventually transfer to Notre Dame. The number of those accepted for the fall 2004 semester has not yet been determined due to a pending April 15 application deadline. The number of accepted Saint Mary’s students will likely remain unknown until June, Gantt said. He also noted the probability of the University declining business or architecture transfer students because of overcrowding in those departments. Current Notre Dame sophomore Sarah Nelson made the decision to transfer to the University before beginning her freshman year at Saint Mary’s. “I was interested in their architecture program,” Nelson said. “I was able to take the same architecture and science classes with the Notre Dame freshmen, so I really only had three classes at Saint Mary’s both semesters, and I wasn’t going to be able to continue the classes without transferring.”Although Nelson said she made close friends during her time at Saint Mary’s, she does not regret her decision. The biggest convenience is not worrying about having to travel back and forth between campuses, she said.Despite losing some students who decide to transfer out of the College, Saint Mary’s draws approximately 45 to 50 incoming transfer students each year. The majority of those come through the Holy Cross-Saint Mary’s linkage program, in which Holy Cross students take courses at the College before officially transferring, said Mary Lelik, director of institutional research.Sophomore Nichole McCloud transferred to Saint Mary’s at the beginning of this semester from Fordham University in New York. “New York is great to visit, though quite different to live in. Thankfully I love it here even more than I thought I would,” McCloud said. “It has definitely been a positive and enriching experience, and I know it will continue to be – possibly even more so-over the next two years. “I just wish I’d learned about Saint Mary’s before I graduated (high school) … but just the same, I love it here and definitely made the right choice.” According to Lelik, her office hopes to institute a survey for withdrawing students to indicate their reasons for leaving. The College can then define its weaknesses and make changes to increase future retention rates, she said. “It is generally between the freshman and sophomore year when we see the greatest amounts of students leave,” she said. “However, our strong graduation rate of 73 to 74 percent helps to keep us ranked No. 1 in our division on the “U.S. News and World Report’s” Best Colleges.” Freshman Lisa Teague has already decided to transfer to the University of Cincinnati next fall. Unlike Saint Mary’s or Notre Dame, University of Cincinnati offers a program of dietetics that Teague hopes to choose as a major. While students, like Teague, may transfer for academic reasons, many ultimately do so to be content in their college environment.