June 18, 2018
One of the most crucial areas to focus on in terms of university performance indicators is student retention. If your student retention metrics are low or falling, it can harm your school’s reputation and reduce your tuition income, but worst of all, it means that you’re failing to educate some of your students.
On a more positive note, it’s easier than ever to track and impact your student retention statistics through various analytics and engagement technologies. Since it can be tough to see through the noise of all the numbers and figure out what actions really need taken, we’ve compiled five easy things you can do to improve student retention.
Did you know that 10% of students who leave before graduation actually have 90% of the credits they need towards their degree?
The need to “do something” without taking the time to gather data points that show the factors impacting student retention can lead to implementing strategies blindly. With the right data gathering strategies, your engagement tactics can go from shooting in the dark to true efficiency.
Nevertheless, managing and distributing this data in an effective way can be challenging. In this article of EDUCAUSE Review, Richard Sluder explores how Middle Tennessee State University handles this challenge through regular updates and wide distribution of knowledge:
“The Student Success Group ensures that MTSU identifies, measures, and regularly tracks key performance metrics. This drives our strategy. Many universities have similar reports. But at MTSU, there are a few key distinctions. First, reports containing key performance measures are produced weekly and distributed widely to all members of the leadership team. A second difference at MTSU is the expectation that every key leader know their numbers. This means that everyone from deans to advisor managers has an obligation to know how their area is performing — at all times!”
Keep Testing Assumptions
We’ve all heard the adage, “Doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results is the definition of insanity.” But it is still easy to fall into the same process of looking at the same old metrics and coming up with a slightly different spin on the same old engagement strategies, month after month, year after year. Sometimes it’s best to start fresh, find new data, and test assumptions that were made long ago to see what new tactics emerge.
One possible strategy is constant “incremental innovation”: consistently starting small initiatives that will add to the information and efforts surrounding student retention. While MTSU achieved this through enhancements to their advising software and a new degree audit package, incremental innovation is not limited to a specific technology — it can involve new processes or even new ways of gathering student feedback.
Have a plan for every step of the student’s journey
It’s common knowledge that students in their first year, or even first semester, are at the most risk of leaving the university. But did you know that 10% of students who leave before graduation actually have 90% of the credits they need towards their degree? And 20% who don’t graduate had 75% of their credits towards the degree. These findings from an analysis done on 53 institutions by Civitas Learning point to the importance of targeted advising and outreach strategies towards the end of the degree, and not only in the beginning of a student’s relationship with the academic institution.
Provide more options for students to graduate
The student of a few decades ago and today’s college student are completely different people. Nowadays students enter school at various points in their lives, juggling a variety of roles and jobs. But are we changing the options available to these students to ensure that they are able to complete their degree? Online classes and better support for part-time students can help.
In fact, simply offering online courses can increase student retention, as shown by a study from Arizona State University. Online courses are associated with increased retention, graduation rates, and cost savings of as much as 50%. Another interesting statistic from the same study pointed out that “at Houston Community College (HCC), for example, retention for first-time freshman was 9 to 10 percentage points higher among students who took an online or blended course.”
Increasing access and support for part-time students is particularly important to increase retention rates among minority groups. While part-time students generally graduate at lower rates, this rate is even lower for black and Hispanic students? A new report from EAB concluded that enrolling in part-time classes reduced graduation rates for Hispanic and black students by 39% and 31% respectively, while the same stat was 29% for white students. Improving the support available to these part-time students can be a crucial strategy for improving retention rates.
Simply having more opportunities to talk to at-risk students has an incredible impact on retention rates. The Center for Community College Student Engagement at the University of Texas at Austin has found that more frequent and intensive advising increases retention. For Georgia State University, for example, a $2 million per year investment in additional academic advisors led to a growth of 20 percentage points in graduation rates.
In the same study, the length of advising seemed to have an impact on retention rates. Students who met with an advisor for longer than 30 minutes at a time had higher engagement scores compared to students who met for a period between 16-30 minutes. It also matters who is advising the student and the criteria in which a student is required to see an advisor. New strategies on both of these areas caused three-year graduation rates for Cleveland State Community College to increase from 14% to 22%.
But advising isn’t the only way you can reach students and increase communication. What if you could send personalized, targeted push notifications to students on their phones, their most intimately used devices, based on information you know about those students such as major, status, year, club interests, and more? What if you could offer the services they need based on their course load and level of engagement? campusM can achieve this with our unique profiles and roles features. With the right tool engaging students on their most frequently used devices, communicating with students no longer has to be as challenging as trying to get students to open emails. You can increase access to advising services and have instant contact with at-risk students with a powerful, useful campus mobile solution. Click here to learn more about campusM and schedule a demo.