Colleges Move to Organize Retention Efforts

Colleges realize that traditional efforts to retain freshmen—and all students until they graduate—need to improve. Below are new ideas on how this problem can be turned around:

1) Begin with the summer before students start school. Many colleges have student success classes which are in the first semester of college, but many students need that guidance in the early summer before they begin college. On-line or in-person classes can be given to students with deliverables such as papers and assessments during the summer.

2) Have a game plan with feeder districts. Many school districts are thinking through how to help juniors and seniors be better prepared for college, but they need college representatives at the table to help them think those issues through. We can no longer afford to have Higher Education in their own silos separate from their K-12 counterparts.

3) Require students who are not working to join one activity. Research shows that students involved in one or more activities on campus have a much lower drop-out rate than the students who are involved, meeting people, forming friendships and learning how to accomplish things outside of class.

4) Survey students. Recently, Stanford students surveyed each other anonymously on mental health issues. Turns out that many students had classified disorders, high rates of depression and other reasons to be on doctor prescribed meds. What other issues do we not know about that are important to students’ academic, emotional and social success? How can they help us identify and solve those problems?

5) Train faculty on student success. Faculty are trained in their discipline areas, but they also need to be experts in student success—the basics of learning and emotional skills which will involve students in thinking and contributing in class and out. If faculty know these issues and connect with students on an emotional level, the chances of success are greater for those students. Coaching is an excellent way for faculty to master this emotional connection.

Our book, MAJORING IN THE REST OF YOUR LIFE: Career Secrets for College Students, is for college freshmen. At $16.95 it is the best value for incoming freshmen on what college and the real world will expect from students. This book will be published in a new edition this spring.

October 25, 2009
Colleges Move to Organize Retention Efforts
By Beckie Supiano
New York

Colleges are organizing their efforts to improve retention, but the resources they are using may not be equal to the task. That’s the assessment Jerome A. Lucido, vice provost for enrollment policy and management at the University of Southern California, shared at a session of the College Board Forum here on Friday.

The session used data from a survey conducted as part of the College Board Study on Student Retention in partnership with the Project on Academic Success at Indiana University at Bloomington and the Center for Enrollment Research, Policy, and Practice at the University of Southern California, which Mr. Lucido directs. The researchers hope their study of institutional practices will provide a base line for analyzing which retention practices are effective.

Connecting colleges’ retention efforts to their results can be difficult, said Mary Ziskin, senior associate director of the Project on Academic Success, because “institutions that have low retention rates tend to put more efforts into retention.”

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