Agency finds BSU best for freshmen

Ball State has recently been named one the best schools in the nation for first-year students by the Policy Center on the First Year of College, a national non-profit research agency.

Michael Siegel and Randy Swing, two judges from the Policy Center's panel, will visit the campus Nov. 7-8. After visiting the 13 finalists chosen by the center, the judging panel will choose its selection of the six best schools in the nation for excellence in the first year.

The 130 nominees were originally divided into six categories based on the number of students enrolled. The selected colleges competed against other schools within each category.

Ball State contended against five other schools in the category for four-year universities with an enrollment of 10,000 to 20,000. The university was then one of two colleges or universities chosen from each group to be named an "Institution of Excellence in the First College Year."

The center made an exception, however, and added the U.S. Military Academy to the original list of 12 because the judges felt it did not fit into any of the competing groups.

Provost Beverley Pitts credited the distinction to the university's curriculum, which she said emphasizes excellence, personal learning and growth throughout a student's freshman year at Ball State.

Betsy Barefoot, co-director of the Policy Center, explained she was impressed by the university's commitment to surveys and evaluations for its students.

"Ball State is a real expert in assessment," she said.

Aside from a strong emphasis on assessment, Ball State utilizes its Freshman Connections program, which allows students in the same residence halls to take some of the same classes.

"I think (Freshman Connections) helps because there are people I know in my classes and I can make friends and find people to study with," said freshman Jacob Barrett.

Since Freshman Connections began in 1997, Ball State's rate of freshmen returning for their sophomore year has increased from 68 percent to 77 percent.

Barefoot said publicizing what other colleges and universities are doing to help improve the first year of college for freshmen can be beneficial to schools nationwide.

"They (the schools) can have a template on how to do the first year in a way that matters, " Barefoot said. "The first year gets short-changed, like it's God's will for freshmen to fail."

Barefoot said once the the six best schools are named, The Policy Center plans to publish a book containing information about Ball State and the other 12 finalists.


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