News From Terre Haute, Indiana

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February 20, 2014

Seminars brief ISU trustees ahead of meeting

TERRE HAUTE — Indiana State University fraternity and sorority members have better graduation and retention rates than their non-Greek peers, some university data indicate.

For students who started school in 2009, fraternity/sorority members graduated, or continued their studies, at a rate that was 19 percentage points greater than students who were not members of Greek-letter organizations.

The data look at students who graduated after four years or continued attending into their fifth year. The information was presented to ISU trustees during one of five informational seminars Thursday afternoon.

Fraternity/sorority members showed an overall “success” rate of 60.5 percent, versus a “success” rate of 41.5 percent for all other first-time freshmen who started in 2009.

For fraternity/sorority members, 26.2 percent had graduated in four years, while 34.3 percent continued at ISU. For other students, 21 percent had graduated, while 20.5 percent were continuing.

According to Nolan Davis, ISU associate vice president for student affairs, general involvement makes students more likely to stay in college, “but the emotional connection of being in a fraternity or sorority is one of the most powerful things. It’s like being part of a family.”

 If students don’t know why they are in college, that would normally be a reason to leave, he said. “If you find at least one thing that you believe is a rewarding experience, you are more likely to stay.”

Also, that fraternity/sorority family or social network provides more support to help the student succeed, he said.

One student told Davis a fraternity taught him how “to do” college, not just how to study, but how to negotiate a large bureaucracy or settle a roommate problem.

“If people don’t have a sense of support, or learn how to do those things, they are probably going to leave,” he said.

In a separate seminar, university officials updated trustees on initiatives to improve student retention and graduation rates, including the launch of the new University College, which works closely with new freshmen through what is called “intrusive advising” and other efforts.

Linda Maule, dean of the University College, said the university has “revamped” its probation program.

Out of 2,654 freshmen, 437 are on academic probation this semester, meaning their grade-point averages were between 0.85 and 1.99. As a result, they’ve had to sign a “probation contract” and must make at least a 1.71 GPA in spring to register for classes next fall.

The contract has conditions those students must meet: they will attend all mandatory meetings; they will meet with their academic adviser on a monthly basis, providing information about grades and attendance — signed by faculty; they will meet with peer mentors once a week; there are blackboard probation modules they must complete by a due date; they need to be enrolled in a one-credit probation class or counseling 135.

“We’re taking this seriously,” Maule told trustees.

In separate comments, ISU President Dan Bradley told trustees that the university is “very focused” on helping its 21st Century Scholars be more successful.

“It’s a very expensive program for the state,” he said. “I think it’s fair to say there are skeptics out there [who] wonder whether the state should be putting that many resources in. Unless Indiana State and others like us can find ways to help those students be more successful, the nay-sayers are going to carry the day and that one program will slowly be defunded.”

After the seminar, he said the program is “under a microscope” by legislators and others because success rates are not what they need to be.

“These students truly are only here because those kinds of programs exist,” he said.

Sue Loughlin can be reached at 812-231-4235 or sue.loughlin@tribstar.com

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