Colleges all over the country are looking at their retention rates, trying to figure out how to improve the numbers. With pressure coming from a growing number of states as they adopt outcome-based higher education funding strategies, schools need to figure out how to reach and help at-risk students succeed — but how?
Student retention isn’t always about academics. In fact, 40% of students leave college with a B average. There are many reasons why a student might decide college isn’t right for them, from loneliness to family issues. Colleges can identify the signs along the way to help find and encourage at-risk students, implement programs that reach those students and take measures to ensure students have the means they need to be successful.
Collect data and have a plan
One technique that is growing in popularity is the use of predictive analysis in identifying at-risk students. Predictive analysis and big data can offer administrators a way to identify students who may be in academic or financial risk, but then what? How does a school go from collecting data to solving problems?
At Georgia State University they developed a plan of action to work in conjunction with their data analysis efforts. Bringing on 42 additional advisors, GSU has increased their retention rate by 4% in a single year — the financial gain outweighing the cost associated with hiring new employees.
Also, another potential financial gain is that retaining students is less costly than recruiting new students, especially with today’s declining number of college freshman.
This doesn’t mean that big data doesn’t have shortcomings, it does, but it can be a powerful tool in taking proactive steps toward improving your school’s retention numbers.
Increase sophomore student services
Another area where some schools are choosing to focus their attention is on the sophomore class. Freshmen programs are often offered in abundance, but a student’s second year can be the hardest. Extending some programs designed for freshmen to include sophomores helps keep students focused and provides them with much needed direction. Also, developing sophomore-only programs that offer assistance in the areas where these students typically go astray, could help your school meet the needs of more students and raise retention levels.
Make sure students have what they need to succeed
Students populations that are typically identified as at-risk are also growing populations on college campuses. To increase retention numbers, it is important to identify areas where these students might need extra help. For example, nontraditional students are an infamously hard population of students to reach. They often don’t stay on campus and are more likely to feel isolated or like they don’t belong. Finding ways to make this group feel included can help keep the students at your school.
Another growing problem on campuses is that students are choosing not to purchase their course materials, leaving them ill prepared for class. In fact, research has shown that students who receive their materials two weeks after classes start receive a substantially lower grade. Schools can take a counter measure to this trend by implementing an inclusive access program on their campus which ensures students get their course materials before the start of class. Not only will an inclusive access program ensure students have their required materials, but it also can provide the school an additional, stable revenue source or provide students with more cost savings.