Pandemic Contributes to Drop in Hunter Retention

Enrollment at Hunter rose from 23,193 in 2019 to 24,052 in 2020, according to a financial report from the University Budget Office. The decline comes after several years of decreasing retention rates across CUNY schools, according to data from the City University of New York. 

The percentage of students retained at Hunter has dropped every year since 2015, with the exception of 2017. Anjor Khadilkar, a Hunter student preparing to graduate at the end of the spring 2020 semester, said she almost didn’t return to class in the fall.

“I honestly would have much prefered to take a break, take a semester to avoid burnout,” she said. “Maybe do spring online and have gone back in the fall.”

The latest data available for Hunter College lists a retention rate of 81% for first-time Bachelor’s degree-seeking undergraduate students returning to start their second year in the fall of 2019, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. This is a drop of over three percentage points from 2015, when Hunter’s retention rate was 84.6%. 

Khadilkar said she decided to stay at the encouragement of her parents. She said the sudden switch to online learning was difficult and had a negative impact on her mental health.

“Staring at a computer all day has got to be the biggest difficulty,” she said. “I mean, I’m still struggling with that and trying to figure out a way to do it that doesn’t make my brain want to explode, but it’s tough because there’s no way around it.”  

Khadilkar said that the biggest deterrent for her was the quality of education she was receiving online, which she said was of a lower caliber than the classes she was receiving in person, with no tuition reduction.

“Not only are you paying the same amount as you would be in-person where you’d be getting a much better quality of education, but on top of that you’re not getting any proper help from the school and some teachers have been complete angels and some just have not,” she said. 

She said that the move online has rendered some of Hunter’s services inaccessible, citing difficulties she had reaching the financial aid office for assistance. To account for remote learning, Hunter moved its student services online, including the financial aid office and the registrar.

Khadilkar says the move hasn’t reduced the long wait times between responses to inquiries sent to the office. She says that given the chance again, she would have waited to return to in-person instruction rather than attend classes online. 

“It just became a hassle to be attending school, and Hunter as an institution is doing nothing to make it easier and more accessible for people,” she said. “If Hunter was still online I wouldn’t have recommended it to anybody, ‘Don’t go, it’s not worth it.’”