THE high drop-out rate for Charles Sturt University’s (CSU) first-year students can be blamed on a lack of opportunity, rather than a lack of ability.
That’s according to dean of students, Professor Julia Coyle.
In 2011, one-in-five (20.5 per cent), or 1419 CSU students, dropped out of their course during their first year.
Nationwide, nearly one in seven abandon their university dreams, although regional universities often have a higher drop-out rate than their metropolitan counterparts.
Professor Coyle said rural students face additional challenges when attending university.
Historically, there has been a lack of universities in regional areas, according to Professor Coyle, and this has led to fewer people achieving a university qualification.
She said fewer qualifications within a family leads to less understanding of the pressures involved with completing a degree.
“Around 70 per cent of our students are the first in their family to go to university,” she said.
“They don’t tend to have someone that can say it’s okay, so they will start to think ‘I’m not smart enough to go to uni’.”
Another difference with CSU is the high number of mature age students undertaking a bachelor degree.
“We have a high number of them who are working and studying by distance and they have family-life pressures,” Professor Coyle said.
“They have multi-faceted reasons why they may choose not to continue with their studies.”
Professor Coyle said feelings of isolation often contribute to the decision to drop out of university.
The high drop-out rate is something CSU is working to improve.
“We’re trying to work hard to understand their concerns, listen and bring the uni to them,” Professor Coyle said. “It’s something that certainly we are working very hard to make inroads into.”
CSU’s outreach program is part of that solution. Staff travel through regional and rural areas to talk to students about their problems.
Professor Coyle said resilience and persistence are vital qualities for any university student.
“Outreach and being very proactive in the way we work with students gets them prepared for university,” she said.