Between spring 2012 and fall 2013, around 550 first-year students left OU.
Editor’s Note: This is the first of two stories examining why students transfer to and from Ohio University.
Ellie Rogers loves Ohio University, but she left Athens after her freshman year and headed up Route 33 to Ohio State University.
“I don’t really like OSU at all,” Rogers said. “I go to OSU because it’s an education.”
Rogers, now a junior at OSU studying language education, is similar to hundreds of other students who transfer to other colleges and universities after spending only one year at OU.
Between spring 2012 and fall 2013, around 550 first-year students left OU, according to a university study on first-year student retention. The study analyzed those terms because most students transfer after their first year.
Most students who transferred cited OU’s cost of attendance for the reason why they left. Location and “personal adjustment” issues were also cited.
According to the university study, 20 percent of students who left OU ditched their Bobcat gear for Buckeye garb. OSU accepts nearly three times as many Bobcat transplants as any other school in the state.
The study found that 84 students jumped ship from OU to OSU between the 2012 and 2013 academic years.
“I think for one thing, it’s Ohio State’s status,” said Douglas Orr, the transfer student coordinator at OU’s University College, explaining why so many transfer students end up in Columbus. “I’ve had many students tell me, ‘I love it here, but it has always been my goal to go to Ohio State.’”
Orr said that some students seem to use OU as a starting point and consider OSU the university they want to attend after studying a year or more in Athens. Last year, OU’s acceptance rate was 73 percent, while OSU’s was 57 percent, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.
“I don’t know that there is really anything we can do about that,” Orr said. “If their intent from the time that they arrive is to leave, it’s really hard to change their mind about it.”
Rogers said she left OU almost solely because of OSU’s proximity to the youth ministry she interned with the summer after her freshman year. She simply believed her work became more important than where she got her degree.
“I didn’t leave because I disliked OU,” Rogers said. “I absolutely loved it. It was a really difficult decision.”
Most students cited a high cost of attendance at OU as the reason he or she left, according to the study.
The university has tried to curtail the number of students who leave due to cost. Recently, OU’s “The Promise Lives” campaign hit its $450 million fundraising goal, which will put some money back into students’ pockets through scholarships. The university also recently began matching scholarship donations — $.50 for every dollar donated — with unbudgeted portions of revenue, which has created 65 new endowed scholarships since its start in 2012.
Still, OU is ranked the 22nd most expensive state institution in the nation by the U.S. Department of Education’s College Affordability and Transparency Center, though it finishes below Miami University and OSU, both of which made it into the top ten.
Other reasons cited by students for transferring were “personal adjustment,” and location issues. Quality of teaching and as well as drug and alcohol abuse were cited, but not frequently, as other reasons for transferring.
The number of first-year OU students who transfer isn’t unusual, said Candace Boeninger, assistant vice provost for Enrollment Management and director of Undergraduate Admissions.
“National data indicate that transfer between and among colleges and universities is increasingly common among students pursuing higher education in Ohio,” Boeninger said in an email.
She also pointed out that Ohio’s “Transfer to Degree Guarantee” program, which guarantees the transfer of credits between state schools, has made it notably easier for students to transfer between public schools in Ohio. This might explain why only a small percentage of Bobcats leave for private schools.
OU’s overall retention rate between spring 2012 and fall 2013 was 79 percent. OU’s Honors Tutorial College had the highest retention rate during this period at 98 percent; University College, which is made up of mostly of students who have yet to choose a major, was the lowest with 66 percent.
The university has programs in place to try and keep “at-risk” students from leaving pursuing a higher education, said Jenny Klein, assistant dean for Persistence and Student Success.
“We will aggressively find you … We will employ all of our resources to help you out,” Klein said.
Kent State University received the second most OU transfers from spring 2012 to fall 2013 — a little more than seven percent of OU’s transferring students.
Columbus State Community College and the University of Cincinnati both took about six percent of the students; Wright State, Miami and Cleveland State universities all hovered near three percent.