Reflecting on the report from the National Student Clearinghouse regarding first-to-second year college persistence rates, Michael Neitzel, senior contributor to Forbes magazine, notes that while there has been a slight increase in student persistence, this modest increase suggests many institutions’ retention efforts did not yield the desired results. Instead, nationwide, gaps in persistence remain.
Neitzel identifies five major gaps in persistence that invite deeper exploration and a call to respond:
- Part time students are at a higher risk of attrition than their full-time counterparts.
- Race and ethnic disparity continues; persistence rates for Asian and white students are greater than those for black and Hispanic students.
- Students who begin their studies after the age of 21 are more likely to drop out of college than traditional age college students.
- Persistence rates are consistently lower at private, for profit colleges than public four-year schools or private nonprofits.
- Differences exist in choice of major; students who come to college undecided demonstrate a higher risk of attrition than students with a clear academic path.
Neitzel concludes that improving student retention needs a well-designed plan to address these gaps. In a related article, “A Third of Your Freshman Disappear,” Kelly Field provides examples of bold and creative initiatives with proven records of enhanced student success and persistence.
- Southern Utah created a comprehensive first year experience addressing issues of financial need, enhanced advisement and early intervention strategies for struggling students.
- UNC-Greensboro joined the effort of many colleges by offering an enhanced First Year Seminar, with special emphasis for high need students. Other colleges have tailored their orientation and/or seminars to fit the needs of various subgroups, making them more personalized and relevant.
- Building a sense of community and belonging were goals at the University of Texas at Austin in a leadership program for at-risk students, especially for their commuter students who expressed a greater sense of being connected to the campus community.
- Reimagining “gateway courses” helped first year students connect more immediately with the subject matter. At New Jersey Institute of Technology, traditional lecture courses have been redesigned to be more learner-centered and engaging with convincing results.
- Implementing proactive programs such as intrusive advising and success coaches has proven to be effective. Small changes, such as meeting students in campus cafes or the library instead of offices can make a big difference in student attitudes and adjustment. [These days think about establishing a Zoom Café!]
If you are looking to increase your college’s retention rates, On Course has been an instrumental part of the success of many colleges across the country for over twenty years, offering the four essential elements to an effective approach: “campus-wide, comprehensive, coordinated and collaborative” success programs. More Information on how to support your college’s efforts.