College Retention Program?

Approximately 1/3 of college students do not return to school for their sophomore year and the average college graduates only fifty percent of matriculating students, in six years. For most colleges, much more money is spent per student on marketing to potential applicants than is spent on student retention. Only 43 percent of schools have student retention programs, and of these, just 25 percent of them have departments with at least one full-time employee performing that retention-related functions.

No one is interested in a “black box” service. With an aircraft that has crashed, the interpretation of black box data is retrospective, and data analysis does not recover victims. Retention programs should know their student body, plus capture and analyze as much about their students’ real-time status as is necessary to student losses while minimizing personal obtrusiveness. Applicable factors may include current academic performance, changes in financial resources, health and social challenges, and other data that may be predictive (in their setting) of challenged versus successful graduation. Marginally relevant, or insufficient qualitative and quantitative information, limited or untimely data analysis, and a lack of expedient interpretation and effective follow-up action will limit the effectiveness of a program.

Questions to ask of a college, academy, or university representative.

  • Do you have an independent student retention department with its own dedicated personnel and budget?

  • How many persons does the department employ, full-time?

  • What functions does the department perform?

  • What other personnel collectively report to the student retention department to assure that all elements of student assistance plans may be enacted?

  • By what measures does the retention department measure its effectiveness?

  • When at-risk students are identified, are corrective services freely available for all such students?

  • When at-risk students are identified, are corrective services applied rapidly? Are students reached long before they are at risk for loss of scholarships, or other actions that adversely affect retention?

  • What are the retention and 4-year graduation rate goals of the institution?

Even if the schools respond affirmatively regarding the existence of such a program, ask: “Have they met their performance goals, and if not, why not?” Also ask: “How close to 100 percent graduation rate should the school experience if their retention program were improved? ISG Success suggests that you choose your college wisely. Your success matters.

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