More Humboldt State students are electing to stick around, but there’s still work to be done
Corrections: a previous version of this story incorrectly quoted Casey Park as saying “We’re absent as an institution.” The quote should have said “We were absent as an institution.” The story also wrongly included “interim” in Jason Meriwether’s title.
Humboldt State revealed more students were staying on its campus rather than taking off for other schools or ventures in a Jan. 31 press release.
Tracy Smith, the director of the HSU Retention through Academic Mentoring Program, said she was proud of the work she and her peer mentors have accomplished over the years.
“I think Humboldt sincerely believes that whether students decide to stay at Humboldt or not is really a product of our entire campus community and off-campus community,” Smith said. “RAMP really is designed to support incoming students and them finding a place where they feel a connection.”
A study done in conjunction with HSU by the National Survey of Student Engagement in spring 2019 provided some data on student perceptions of HSU.
“85 percent of new first-year students said if they were given the option to choose a college again, they ‘probably’ or ‘definitely’ would attend HSU again,” the study said. “And 89 percent of first-year students said their overall experience was ‘good’ or ‘excellent’, compared to an overall CSU system rate of 84 percent.”
Jason Meriwether, Ph.D., vice president for Enrollment Management, said a few things have contributed to the increased retention rates, including Enrollment Management staff and related faculty streamlining the registration process and connecting students with support services—all in an attempt to create a sense of belonging for students.
“It’s the experience but it’s also the listening and packaging it into one,” Meriwether said. “So, all of that is about looking at the students and giving them what they’re asking for first, and using the resources that we have to create an experience for the student.”
Meriwether said his staff’s hard work has paid off by meeting student needs.
“We have to be aligned with what students are expressing that they need and putting ourselves in a position to support students,” Meriwether said.
He noted a growing trend at HSU of transfer students outnumbering first-time freshmen. HSU has needed to move around campus resources to accommodate the influx of transfer students.
“It’s about being nimble and seeing where the student population is going and meeting those needs,” Meriwether said.
Meriwether added that in recent months, the Student Disability Resource Center and cultural centers have received major face-lifts, which, in turn, have opened up more doors for students.
Casey Park, an HSU alumna, was glad for the rising number of retained students, but said the campus administration’s past actions around retention shouldn’t be ignored as a new wave of measures are enacted. Park is an Associated Students coordinator, but gave her perspective only as an alumna.
“We are still going to need to reconcile the years where we were neglectful of students,” Park said. “It’s going to take a lot of really good decisions to hold ourselves accountable for that and kind of be like, ‘We were absent as an institution.'”
Park said the HSU administration’s inaction regarding the Josiah Lawson case and other events affected previous student perceptions of HSU.
“There wasn’t attention given to the most affected and traumatized students,” Park said. “And those are the students who went back to where we recruit from and said ‘Humboldt is not a place for me,’ and ‘Humboldt is not a place for you.'”