The State of Athens

By AMANDA DUKES

Staff Writer

If you were to glance at the Athens campus retention rates, they would appear to be very consistent.  However, after reviewing the report “Evolution of the Piedmont College Athens Student Body 2010-2014,” it becomes apparent that the statistics are not as straightforward as they appear.  

The report cited that “Athens campus recruits, on average, nearly twice as many new students…as the number it loses to graduation.”  This should be fantastic.  It indicates that the Athens campus should be growing as it continues to recruit an increasing number new students.  However, the graduation rate is not increasing enough to reflect this growth.  In fact, it isn’t increasing significantly at all.  So where are all the Athens students disappearing?

As it turns out, these students are leaving school.  The report cited that “the campus loses an average of 61 students who simply quit attending, without graduating.”  Furthermore, “of those who quit… 45 percent stay two semesters or less.”  So what is making these students leave? 

 It’s not the inconvenience.  80 percent of students live within 30 miles of campus – remarkable statistics for a commuter campus.  It’s not that Athens does not offer appropriate major programs.  Although Athens is most recognized for their nursing and education programs, they offer a full range of major opportunities, including business, psychology, and sociology.  So what causes the student’s to simply stop coming to Athens?

One possible explanation can be posited by examining when the students are leaving.  A large number of students that leave Athens will do so after attending only one or two semesters.  This indicates that “some transfer students attend Piedmont just long enough to meet entrance requirements for other institutions…”  Is Athens viewed as a stepping stone school?  Are students coming to Athens just to knock out their general education requirements before they transfer to another school?  One student, who wishes to remain anonymous, said they “came here until [they] figured out where [they] really wanted to go.”  Or, are students who attend Athens unsatisfied enough to leave?  Either option is equally upsetting because the Athens campus has such incredible potential, not only for Piedmont College, but also for the Athens community.

It is a sad fact, however, that this potential is not being met.  Students are leaving the campus just as fast as they are recruited.  Why is it that so much attention is being placed on recruiting students, and not keeping the ones already here?  Why is it that the Athens campus is turning into a two-year institution?  Athens wasn’t meant to be a transition-a strange limbo for students waiting to get into their college of choice.  Athens was meant to be that choice.  Athens wasn’t meant to be a segue; a stop on the path from high school to a higher education.  Athens was meant to be that higher education.  The Athens campus is struggling to reach this ideal. So why is the Demorest campus not?  Why is it that the issues so clearly impacting the Athens campus are not an issue in Demorest… what do they have that Athens does not?