MANSFIELD - Mansfield University's Council of Trustees heard the results Wednesday of a survey taken of first-year, first-time freshmen that left them concerned.
The information, presented by Associate Directors for Student Life Ruth Hermansen and Andee Dunham, showed as many as one-third of those surveyed would not recommend the university to others looking for a higher education.
Working with the MAP-Works, an $18,000-per-year software program that provides extensive data from participating students, the two women said that though the news was "concerning" it wasn't insurmountable in the quest to retain students.
That quest is the university's highest priority, said outgoing interim President Allan Golden, attending his final trustees meeting.
"Retention is especially critical to Mansfield, and part of it is MAP-Works, which stands for Making Achievement Possible. How do you keep them here to complete their studies and graduate?" he said.
According to Hermansen and Dunham, the 100-question survey was distributed to 592 students of the incoming freshman class on Sept. 20. They had until Oct. 11 to compete and return it, and the return rate was 94 percent.
The average return rate for other four-year universities is 74 percent.
According to Hermansen, involving different constituents made the difference in the return rate, as well as "constantly reminding them," and offering incentives such as gift cards to local stores and the campus bookstore.
About 60 percent of those completing the survey were female, and 40 percent male, Hermansen said.
Most intend to complete a degree program, but not here, she added.
"Though 88 percent intend to comeback to MU for spring term, only 75 percent intend to come back for the next academic year. About 71 percent intend to transfer to another college, eventually to complete their degrees," she added.
"A lot of them express concern about finances, but few of them have jobs, and they complained there were not enough work-study provisions," she said.
Of the things they liked about the university, students said, is the freedom, new experiences, people, education and small class size.
The most common answers to what they like least included missing family and friends, the food, walking too much, too much work and nothing to do, but 60 percent said they do not intend to get involved in any extra-curricular activities such as the school's marching band.
"Only 29 percent feel they sleep enough and only 34 percent think they exercise the amount of time needed to remain healthy," Hermansen added.
About half of those surveyed are taking five or more courses and expressed they are struggling in one or two classes.
About 64 percent said they were struggling moderately and 66 percent of them said they have not talked with their professors about it.
About 90 percent have decided what their major or program will be, but 54 percent say they are experiencing stress in choosing a major/program.
About half had deficient grads or below at mid-term, she added, with 60 percent at low risk of leaving and 22 at high risk.
"After mid-term grades came out, the high and very high at risk more than doubled to 31 percent," she said.
Dr. Peter Keller, provost and vice president for Academic Affairs, said the National Survey of Student Engagement would be conducted in the spring, but it will not be as comprehensive as the MAP-Works survey.
"It is being done with all PASSHE students this year," he said. "Each survey takes a huge amount of effort to get the students to actually take. If we can improve our ability to act on this data, it will help," he added.
According to Dunham, each student has been contacted and receives direction on where to go for help with their particular needs.
Dr. Chris Bridges, associate vice president for student affairs and dean of students, noted the problems are "not all unique to Mansfield, and 94 percent return is great. This is good information, but we need to do a secondary survey."
Trustee members agreed.
In other business, the trustees presented Golden with a resolution of appreciation for his hard work and dedication to the university during his one-year tenure as interim president, acknowledging his efforts to propel the new residence halls into existence and his persistence in getting the Marcellus Institute created.
The trustees' next meeting is scheduled for March 27.