Charles Sturt staff reaching out to reduce one-in-five-students drop out rate

CHARLES Sturt University (CSU) is addressing its high drop-out rate by investing in outreach programs where staff travel to remote areas and coach students who are struggling. 

CSU has one of the highest drop-out rates of first-year students of any university in NSW.

However, dean of students, professor Julia Coyle said the university was proud of its ethos and would not consider raising entry requirements.

Department of Education figures showed one in five, or 20.46 per cent of first-year bachelor students at CSU dropped out after 12 months in 2011.

The NSW average was 11.63 per cent, while the national average was 12.82 per cent.

CSU had the third-highest dropout rate in the state, behind fellow regional universities Southern Cross University (22.25 per cent) and the University of New England (20.52 per cent).

Professor Coyle said the entry requirements for students were not too low, nor was the standard required of them too high.

She said one contributing factor was that CSU had the largest number of distance education students, who often faced pressure that campus students did not. 

“A large proportion of them are not recent school leavers ... they quite often have a job and financial commitments and young families,” she said. 

“The reasons they drop-out are multi-faceted.” 

She said it was more important to give people the opportunity to attend university, to try, rather than make universities more exclusive. 

Professor Coyle said the university was addressing the high drop-out rate by sending people out to meet with isolated students.

She says the university uses Skype and internet chat to help students stay in their courses. 

“The figures are quite old and we’re already addressing it ... hopefully this would have an impact. Irrespective of what we do, regional students will face problems. Number one, financial, and we’re looking at our scholarships system,” she said.

CSU may have one of the highest drop-out rates, but it also has one of the highest employability rates. 

The university was ranked fourth highest in Australia for employability,  based on figures from 2010-2012, with 84.3 per cent of students in full-time employment.

Of the top Group of Eight universities, only the University of NSW outranked CSU for employability with 85 per cent.

Charles Darwin University had the highest rate of 87.2 per cent. 

“Quite often employers will comment on how work-ready our graduates are,” Professor Coyle said. 

nicole.kuter@fairfaxmedia.com.au

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