Movin’ on out

Movin’ on out

Despite graduation rates for undergraduate students drastically increasing over the last 10 years, many Northeastern students continue to transfer to other universities before their sophomore year.

In the mid-1990s, Northeastern’s graduation rate of students who entered Northeastern their freshman year was as low as 40 percent, said Senior Vice President of Enrollment Management and Student Affairs Philomena Mantella. Recent reports now track the current classes’ graduation rate to be between 73 and 74 percent.

“Northeastern made the fundamental decision to be what they call ‘smaller and better’ and to really focus on stabilizing size and growing the incoming classes with a target of around 2,800,” Mantella said.

Mantella said it is important for the university to keep working on improvement, and said

Northeastern has set a goal to reach a retention rate of nearly 80 percent.

While Northeastern’s rate is currently comparable to the “Lucky 13” schools such as Boston College, Boston University, George Washington University and Syracuse University, Northeastern’s goal is to reach the “highest level,” among comparable schools, she said.

Looking at how financial aid works at the university, providing adequate housing and improving the academic intervention program are three areas that need to be worked on to prevent students from transferring, Mantella said.

Expenses lead to departures

The high cost of tuition is an issue many Northeastern students have to face, but for some students, including Ory Felch, who was a civil engineering major at Northeastern before he transferred to the University of New Hampshire, the burden was too much to handle.

“The biggest reason I transferred was the financial aspect. I realized I didn’t want to deal with that burden,” Felch said.

Attending a school closer to home allows him to work while going to classes, he said. But Felch said he enjoyed the diversity of the urban campus and would even be happy to return.

“If there was a change in price it definitely would persuade me to come, but it would have to be a pretty big price change,” he said.

Cailyn Velardo, who transferred from Northeastern after her sophomore year, also said she “would go back [to Northeastern] in a heartbeat.”

At Northeastern, Velardo was a human services major and worked at a special needs school for her first co-op. Ironically, her co-op turned into the reason she transferred from the university.

“I fell in love with my job,” Velardo said. “I’m so grateful of Northeastern for that. I loved it. I decided I wanted to be a special needs teacher but Northeastern doesn’t have a program for that.”

Velardo said it was inconvenient to become a special needs teacher with a degree from Northeastern.

“I would have to minor in elementary education and major in [another] subject and then go to grad school,” she said.

Velardo transferred to Bridgewater State College, a state school in southern Massachusetts. There, she is following an intensive five-year program where she will graduate with a master’s degree in special education and a bachelor’s degree in elementary education and sociology.

“It’s very different from Northeastern,” she said. “I only have classes twice a week, but I’m on campus all day. It’s a lot smaller and a heck of a lot cheaper than Northeastern.”

Velardo said Northeastern’s high cost was also a factor in her decision to transfer.

“I love Northeastern. It’s a great campus with a great social life, but it wasn’t worth the money for me. There was no reason to go there and not get what I wanted,” she said.

Academics as a factor

The rate of transfer is higher in the freshman and sophomore year classes, Mantella said. The intervention program acts as an early warning system in freshman classes. The program focuses on locating academically at-risk students early in their freshman year, Mantella said. It is easier to improve the grade point average of students facing academic difficulty if they are reached within the first six to seven weeks of their freshman year, she said.

Kristin Wilke, a former Northeastern freshman who transferred to the Eugene Lang College in New York City for her sophomore year, cited academics as her reason for leaving.

“I just didn’t feel like [the academics] were the right fit for me, that there wasn’t enough in the field of study I was interested in,” Wilke said.

While at Northeastern, she was undecided and enrolled in the LAMP program, leaning toward international affairs. At Eugene Lang, Wilke said she is still undecided but is now focusing on urban studies, and enjoys living in New York.

“I loved Boston,” she said, “but I really wanted to be in NYC. Plus I feel like the academic program here will better suit what I think I want to do.”

‘Culture shock’ sets in

The risk of inadequate housing or not being guaranteed on-campus housing after middler year is a factor of city living many students fear. In these cases, the city of Boston itself turns students away.

When Shayna Miller was deciding on which college to attend, she looked at schools that would get her “as far away from home as possible.”

Coming to Boston from her home state of Florida, Boston was certainly a city that would fulfill that criterion. However, once she got here, the business major had mixed feelings.

“I absolutely loved Northeastern,” she said. “Everything about the school itself is great; I really learned a lot from the program. My Intro to Business class was the best; we got to do all these cool projects and meet people.”

But there was still one problem.

“Boston was just too far away from everything I knew,” Miller said.

Miller only stayed at Northeastern for one semester before transferring to the University of Central Florida in Orlando.

“It was just such a huge culture shock for me, living in the South my whole life and then moving to New England,” she said. “I didn’t really feel like I fit in; it was just too big of a change.”

Besides its location, Miller said she chose UCF because of the state resident tuition.

Even though she returned to her home state, Miller is still far enough away from her home.

“Boston was a three-hour flight,” she said. “UCF is a three-hour drive. It’s far enough, but I get to stay in Florida, around everything that I know,” she said.

For former theatre major Ashley Pines, her dream has always been to work on Broadway. Pines said she loved Northeastern, but decided after her freshman year that it would be a better idea to study theatre in New York.

“My choice to come to Northeastern was due to the co-op program, which is basically what I loved most,” she said. “I thought it was a beautiful school. The dorm life was great and I loved all my professors.”

Like Miller, Pines only spent one semester at Northeastern before she transferred to major in theatre production at Marymount Manhattan College in New York.

“I used to joke, ‘If you could put Northeastern in New York City I would be the happiest girl alive,'” she said. –>

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