Alcohol. Drugs. Financial Stress. Homesickness. Athletic teams gone. Problems fitting in.

These are all reasons students transfer or fail out of Fairfield University.

Nationally, 73.6 percent of freshmen stay at the four-year colleges they enrolled in, according to the Web site of the Education Commission of the States.

Fairfield’s retention and graduation rate has hovered above that figure for the past 15 years, according to Judith Dobai, associate academic vice president for Enrollment Management.

A decision to transfer or drop out of college is a multifaceted one.

“There are well over 50 stressors that contribute to a student’s decision to leave college,” said Jeanne DiMuzio, director of Wellness and Prevention. “Alcohol and drugs are significant contributors to the process.”

“The range is different on every campus, but anywhere from 10 to 24 percent of students leaving college indicate their alcohol and drug use as a major factor,” she added.

The college lifestyle interferes with students’ time management, financial stability, emotional health and academic success, according to DiMuzio.

Alison Sikora ’06 said she feels the same way.

“A lot of kids become overwhelmed with balancing partying and schoolwork,” she said.

But Sikora said that she has seen a lot of her friends from home, not Fairfield, transfer from their colleges.

“A lot of my friends were either unhappy with social settings or the academic work,” she said. “For some, the work was too hard and for others, it was too easy.”

Students may also struggle with the distance from home and not see Fairfield as a “good fit for them personally,” said Dobai.

“I have only seen a few students drop out or transfer. But usually people that do leave, I think leave for social reasons,” said Chris McCarthy ’06.

“Generally, Fairfield’s retention rates are strong in comparison to national rates, but there is always room for improvement,” said Dobai.

According to Dobai, Fairfield’s class of 2008 had 90.9 percent of its students return for their sophomore year, the highest second year retention rate since 1993. The class of 2007 has retained 88.5 percent of its original 789 students. This year’s graduating class has 78.7 percent, or 639 students of its original 814, who have returned for their senior year.

The class of 2006 had the lowest percentage of students return for their sophomore year than in any other recorded year.

Dobai said the decline was due to the elimination of the football and hockey teams in 2002.

“That was understandable for students who were committed to playing their sport,” she said.

Dobai thinks it is important for students who leave or fail out of Fairfield to find an alternate fulfilling path, whether that be another full-time experience or becoming a part-time student.

“A college education is an investment of your time and money into yourself. It is the expansion of your thoughts and ideas, your world perspective, your ability to solve problems,” she said.

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