Indiana State University Newsroom

Rec Center users more likely than non-users to stay in college

November 8, 2010

Indiana State University freshmen who used the university's new Student Recreation Center last year were more likely to return to college this fall than those who never used the facility, university records show.

And the more frequently students visited the center, the more likely they were to re-enroll this fall.

During the 2009-10 academic year, nearly 1,600 freshmen took advantage of the center's swimming pool, basketball courts, weight room, fitness programs and other offerings.

Among those who visited the center between one and 15 times during the year, 57 percent returned to campus this fall while 69 percent of those with between 16 and 30 visits are still enrolled and 78 percent of those with 31 or more visits are still working toward a four-year ISU degree. Fewer than half (47.5 percent) of the 217 freshmen who never used the recreation center returned to college this year. The overall fall-to-fall retention rate for first time freshmen is 64 percent.

"The research tells us that the more students are engaged in campus, the more likely they'll stay in college and then graduate," said Carmen Tillery, vice president for student affairs and dean of students. "There is a correlation between the use of the Student Recreation Center and students enrolling for a second year in college."

The 109,000-square-foot Recreation Center, financed by student fees and private funding, is just one more tool Indiana State has to help with student recruitment and retention, said John Lentz, director of recreational sports.

"The Recreation Center is an opportunity for students to experience not only physical fitness and exercise programs but also to connect with other students. The data shows the center is doing what it was intended to do," Lentz said.

Jennifer Schriver, associate vice president for student success, said first-time college students face many changes including the level of academic challenge of their courses, their social lives, their level of independence, and their relationships.

"As a result, college can be stressful and overwhelming. Engaging in physical activity is a good stress-reducer and can help students prevent illness, which might get in the way of academic success," Schriver said.

"The Student Recreation Center has become a social center," said Kelly Oehler, a communication major from Wilmington, Ohio. Being able to come to the Rec Center and work out, be here with friends and participate in some of the activities relieves a lot of stress."

Denzell Miller, a health administration major from Crown Point, said he has met some of his closest friends at the center.

"It's like the hottest place on campus sometimes," he said.

Oehler and Miller are among more than 450 students who, as freshmen last year, visited the recreation center 31 times or more. Both say the center played at least some role in their decision to attend Indiana State.

Lentz said the two-story structure has provided space to greatly expand program offerings and ensure that students no longer have to wait behind physical education classes or athletic practices to use various facilities.

"We have a large aquatics program that's been able to develop with times that are much more suitable to students' schedules," he said. "We have expanded our group exercise programs with as many as 39 sessions offered per week."

Tillery counts herself among ISU faculty and staff who take advantage of the Recreation Center's facilities. She said the center may play a vital role in a proposed campus-wide wellness program that would benefit university employees as well as students.

Tillery said the wellness program is being considered in conjunction with Pathways to Success, the university's strategic planning initiative whose goals include not only attracting and retaining more students but also recruiting and retaining "great faculty and staff."

Like the high-achieving students Indiana State is attracting in greater numbers, high-achieving employees also appreciate having high quality recreational and fitness facilities, she said.

"A comprehensive wellness program that complements our mind, our spirit and our soul - and our physical fitness - is important at Indiana State University."

Photos: - Carmen Tillery        - John Lentz - Jennifer Schriver - Indiana State University students work out in the university's Student Recreation Center. University records show students who used the new 109,000-square-foot center as freshmen in 2009 re-enrolled in fall 2010 in greater numbers than those who did not visit the center. (ISU/Tony Campbell)

Media contact and writer: Dave Taylor, media relations director, Office of Communications and Marketing, Indiana State University, 812-237-3743 or