San Diego State University graduates about 10,000 students at commencement each May, according to SDSU Newscenter, the university’s official news source.
“As an institution, we want to ensure that all students who are accepted into the institution are able to graduate,” said Stephanie Anderson, Associate Registrar at SDSU.
In the 2017/2018 academic year, the university received 1,377 leave requests and 2,370 students failed to re-register, Anderson said.
SDSU offers dropping out and taking a leave of absence as ways to discontinue enrollment at the university. A student who drops out of the university simply stops attending classes and, as a result, will lose eligibility to enroll in a future term.
Since Fall 2014, the numbers of leave requests from the university and students who have not registered for classes for a specific semester and didn’t file a leave request, effectively dropping out, has fluctuated.
During the 2014/2015 academic year, the university accounted for 1,146 leave requests and 3,402 students who didn’t register for classes or file a leave of absence.
The 2015/2016 academic year saw a switch when the school received 539 leave requests and 3,984 students who didn’t register for classes or file a leave of absence. The university says that there was a change in the process for filing for leaves of absence in this time frame, so that may contribute to the variance in numbers leaves of absence for fall 2015.
In the 2016/2017 academic year, there were 1,506 leave requests and 2,532 students who didn’t register for classes or file a leave of absence.
The requests for leaves submitted and the number of students who didn’t register for classes or file a leave of absence are down this year about 150 students from the previous academic year.
It is difficult to calculate the exact number of students who drop out over the course of an academic year, partially due to intention and timing. Because of this, some numbers may be duplicated.
“We do have much to celebrate as a university,” Anderson said. “SDSU students graduate at record high rates across all seven of the academic colleges, and the university now ranks No. 1 nationally in graduation rate performance, based on U.S. News & World Report’s most recent college rankings.”
There is no formal process for dropping out.
“Students who do not register for the following term and do not file a formal leave of absence have effectively dropped out,” Anderson said.
Students who take a leave of absence from the university go through a formal process supported by the university. According to Anderson, the leave process allows students to take time off from school for up to two years without issue or losing their eligibility to enroll in future terms.
Despite the university’s fluctuating withdrawals, SDSU was recently acknowledged as number 60 on U.S. News & World Report’s list of top public schools, most notably for lessening the achievement gap on its campus.
Students like Amber Miller flourish within the understanding environment that SDSU creates. Miller, a third-year student majoring in journalism, took a leave of absence in the semester following her freshman year due to financial and mental strain.
“Though it was a hectic time, I was able to take a smooth leave of absence with the help of the registrar’s office,” said Miller.
Since being back at school, she has joined the campus radio station and has developed studying habits that she believes she developed during her time off. For Miller, returning to SDSU was a crucial step in finishing what she had started.
“I didn’t want to feel like the school defeated me, rather that I conquered it,” said Miller.
She adds that the university, in general, calls for many trials and tribulations but she finds them to be worth it knowing that it is on her own terms.
On the other hand, many students are comfortable with the decision they made to leave the university.
Cael Dadian dropped out of SDSU before even attending a class.
Following high school, he was granted conditional acceptance to San Diego State. Initially, he worked hard to earn good grades at Mira Costa Community College to be able to attend SDSU full-time.
“Being accepted into state was a gift, but it wasn’t my gift.”
Dadian dropped out of SDSU to focus on his singing career. Since neglecting to register in 2015, he has established himself as a local singer, producer, songwriter and photographer. Most notably, he has worked alongside Offset, a member of the rap trio Migos. Looking back five years, Dadian says his decision to leave was a hard one that carries no regret today.
“I was second guessing myself during the first year, but since then I haven’t looked back,” Dadian said.
For Dadian, the next few months are defining moments. Had he attended school full-time he would be graduating beside his closest friends. Essentially, everything he has accomplished leading to this point is what he obtained instead of a formal education.
“It’s the reality of taking a risk,” he says. “I’m happy to not have a plan B because this is too big a part of me.”
This report was a collaboration between NBC 7 and the SDSU School of Journalism and Media Studies.