Enrollment, retention and graduation rates are a reflection of the college’s administration as much as it is on students. With the decline in the graduation rate and the decreasing enrollment over the last few years, some light has been shed on the lack of regard on behalf of the administration. The pandemic contributed greatly to recent numbers, but it is one factor out of many that resulted in these numbers. The graduation rate in the last few years has been declining — not significantly, but in a constant decline. The number of student transfers and students who have taken a leave of absence has increased. From Fall 2020 to Fall 2021, the rate of students who graduated within four years remained at 69%, a decline from 2019 and 2018. In 2020, 455 students took a leave of absence because of the pandemic and the fact that the college was completely remote. While in part, the pandemic is at fault for some students deferring or taking a leave of absence, some students had unresolved concerns or issues that were brought to light but not addressed by the school. This brings forward the issue of student discontentment and the lack of proper resources or aid from the college. It should be a priority to identify the factors that cause students to transfer or take a leave of absence and address them to their full extent.
Ithaca College has a certain reputation; it has high standards for its students and in return the students have a high standard for the school. When the college neglects to address student concerns that it is aware of, it will inevitably lead to discontentment and a lack of school spirit or pride. The pandemic has affected the entire college and its community members greatly, but the college has not shown any indication that it plans to cater to what the students currently need and take on the responsibility for its part in the increase of students transferring or deferring.
Time and time again, students have expressed their disappointment and dissatisfaction with the housing process, the state of some residence halls and the food the college offers in its dining halls. While the college did sever its contract with Sodexo — its former food provider — students have found that the quality of food has not changed and have run into similar issues with the current food that they did with Sodexo.
Year after year, students should not be put in an uncomfortable housing situation where their roommate groups are split up, or they are forced to live in underclassmen dorms as upperclassmen. While making serious renovations on residence halls would be costly and unrealistic, students deserve to live comfortably, with fully functioning amenities like plumbing and washing machines.
Enrollment, retention and graduation rates matter because they set the precedent for the school; it contributes to how the school is seen by its students and potential students. Ithaca College is a highly awarded private institution, so there is a certain prestige and reputation that comes with that. Why are students choosing to transfer? Many factors contribute to students transferring, including financial and mental health reasons. However, individuals who have transferred to other colleges have explained their discontent with the college’s housing and dining, as well as financial difficulties. Unresolved concerns from students and faculty have an effect on the college. Establishing not just communication but also definite plans of action in the near future to ensure that all students feel they are receiving the education and community they enrolled in, is only the first step the college should take. Instead of lowering standards and remaining content with the current state of the college, the college needs to refocus its efforts in making adequate changes sooner rather than later.