CCU adjusts classes to reduce dropout rate

CCU dropouts

CONWAY, SC (WMBF) - Heading off to college is an accomplishment hundreds of thousands of people can say they are proud to have achieved.

Unfortunately, a little more than half of college students nationwide end up dropping out, leaving one Grand Strand university with the need to develop a plan to assist students with unforeseen challenges while lowering its own dropout rate.

WMBF Anchor Theo Hayes takes a look at how Coastal Carolina University is trying to derail the statistics.

CCU attributes a big part of it's drop out rate to a subject with which many students admit they struggle.

So, not only is the university making changes to that particular curriculum, but because nearly a quarter of students nationwide start college and then end up facing problems they didn't realize would come up, they are also working to correct social and financial issues.

"I had to drop math," admits Courtney Moser, a junior at CCU. "Math 138; It's basic algebra."

Dropping a class is a response many college students have about a difficult subject.

"I haven't had a math class in like a year, so I'm still trying to learn all the basics again," sighs CCU freshman Laiken Howard.

Howard says she wishes she had taken a math class her senior year in high school, and she might be better equipped to handle the pressures of a college course.

"It's overwhelming," Howard admits.

A little more than 15% of freshmen dropped out from Coastal Carolina University last year and the university says academically, math courses were a big reason why.

"The math classes, the science classes, the first year accounting class, the first college algebra class, sometimes it's statistics," identifies Dr. Robert Sheehan, Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs, of difficult classes at CCU.

Dr. Sheehan teaches a statistics course. He says the university is working to get the drop out rate lower by focusing on a number of changes.

"I think it's realistic to try and reduce that rate to 10 percent," Dr. Sheehan forecasts.

Some of the changes the university has made for this school year include mandatory attendance by freshman and sophomore students, and math class sizes have been reduced from 40 to 25.

Dr. Sheehan says all math and science courses are only taught by the school's best faculty.

Starting next year, one of the university's flagship programs, marine science, will offer a pre-program for students who test low.

"What we've done to take that on, just recently we launched a pre-marine science major in which we will place student who seem to be underrepresented for the math courses," Dr. Sheehan explains. "And students can come in and take the math courses they need and then move into the full science major."

Nationally, many believe the problem is that math in U.S. high schools doesn't stack up or prepare students for the real world.

This year, South Carolina has adopted the Common Core Standards, a new way to teach that measures students on a broader level, but the university won't implement the program for students until 2013.

Academics, however, isn't the only reason students drop out of higher education learning.

Some join the military, or find full time employment. Financial and social issues also keep kids from graduating.

Twenty five percent of students coming into college struggle with something.

That's why Debbie Connor, Vice President of University Relations, says CCU is trying to help students by implementing different social outlets, counseling and other programs.

"We are moving those kings of programs into our residence halls, so it's very accessible to our students," Connor states.

The average student will attend three institutions before obtaining their undergraduate degree and, students agree, more often than not it won't always be easy.

If a CCU student falls below a 2.0 GPA, they are put on academic probation and have the next semester to get their grades above the minimum standard. Dr. Sheehan says students can always re-apply and that their credits can be applied at other institutions.

Copyright 2012 WMBF News. All rights reserved.