It’s no secret that retention rates have been an ongoing issue for Blackburn. Director of Institutional Research Kristi Nelms stated that the national average of retention rates is 72% for first-time, full-time students between their freshman and sophomore year. Blackburn’s rate is 65% for the cohort fall 2014 and who returned in fall 2015.
Haley Cohan left after the first semester of her junior year at Blackburn. She now attends Southern Illinois University Edwardsville as a criminal justice major and is graduating in May. “I loved Blackburn and I still do, but there was something about it that wasn’t right for me,” Cohan said. She went on to explain that while she appreciated the Campus Activities Board events, there were too few things to do on campus and there was nothing to do in town. With such a small student body, it is hard not to know everyone. “Since [Blackburn] was so small it felt like high school and I was looking for something greater,” said Cohan. “Also you would know everyone and everyone would know your business. Nothing could ever be kept a secret but at the same time it was a great community.”
Kellie Phillips decided to leave Blackburn and her pursuit of her communications degree to go to Northern Illinois University, where she graduated with a degree in organizational corporate communications in May 2015. Phillips stated, “The main reason I left is because Blackburn was my safe choice. I went there because I didn’t know where else to go and I didn’t want to go to community college. It was close to home (Jerseyville, IL) so I just went with it. I also had the intention of entering the education program and very quickly found out that it wasn’t my cup of tea. I found a program I did like at NIU and I had more options since it is such a larger university. Plus, I had a larger job market to work with. But I definitely don’t regret going to Blackburn. It was a kickass school and I met some amazing people there.”
Marcus Watt left Blackburn after his freshman year. He was studying computer science then switched to sports management. Watt offered a few reasons as to why he left, those being the disrespect he believes he suffered from his advisors, the poor conditions of academic and dorm buildings, the issues of having to work if you lived on campus (though he stated he understands why). Watt stated, “The biggest reason I left is because I believe there is a huge drug abuse problem at Blackburn.” Watt is currently getting his associate of arts in business from Truman University and plans on transferring to St. Cloud State University to get a degree in recreational sports and business management.
Dean of Students Heidi Heinz stated that she has heard several reasons pertaining to why students leave Blackburn. The list of reasons includes a long laundry list about family issues, personal reasonings, lack of financial support and many more. Heinz was unaware of a few of the reasons that Cohan, Phillips and Watt gave. She had no comment about these.