Student Retention Plan
To develop a plan for student retention, it is necessary first of all to determine what reasons lead to the need to change the situation. Kostell and Warrington (2018) identify that there are various reasons for the withdrawal of students, which they themselves note as paramount. Primarily, student withdrawal can be motivated by personal reasons, including changing school, starting a career, or an inappropriate social environment. Financial reasons are mainly due to excessively high tuition fees or loss of scholarships. Medical reasons that may lead to withdrawal include mental and physical problems. There are also academic reasons, which may lie in unjustified expectations from the chosen program or a change in the course of study. Finally, dissatisfaction with the environment and the campus, in particular, can be emphasized among the important reasons.
The development of a student retention plan requires institutions to collect various types of data on student attributes. It includes gathering information on “abilities, goals, commitments, and pre-entry expectations, on the character of student social and academic experiences” (Tinto, n. d., p. 2).
Additionally, it is important to measure student satisfaction, achievement, and willingness to stay at the institution. In this context, it is critical to pay attention not only to formal criteria such as loans and grades but also to aspects of informal aspects. In particular, it is important to consider student relationships with other members of the institution, including staff and faculty. It is necessary to collect both objective and subjective data about the experience of students in order to form a complete picture of the retention process. Thus, to collect the most detailed information, the collaboration of several offices is required.
The Data Needed
The office of institutional research is the main institution that collects data on the existing situation with retention. This office is required to consolidate all existing resources to ensure the collection and analysis of relevant information. Based on the data obtained, it will later be possible to draw conclusions about how effective the current strategies to improve student retention are and what measures need to be taken. Communication with other offices of the institution in this situation is key to successful planning.
Registrar is an important data source for researching the current level of student retention. This office of the institution offers various records of students’ backgrounds, course enrollment, as well as exam results. Within the framework of this initiative, such information is key to assessing the overall involvement of students in the educational process. On its basis, one can judge the general patterns of student participation in educational courses, their activity.
In particular, special attention can be paid to those courses that have the lowest retention level. Such information is useful for identifying educational programs and disciplines that need special support or transformation. A critical point is also considering data about students’ life on campus, such as registration and residence. These aspects will help to identify potential impairments of students in social interaction. The general data on student background and enrollment also helps to determine the expectations and reasons for leaving students, which is important for shaping the plan.
The office of financial aid is an important source of data on the economic situation related to retention. In particular, this office helps to determine the terms of financing programs that are effective and or useful enough. As noted, the inability to pay for educational programs due to high costs, financial problems, or the loss of a scholarship is a common reason for not completing education. In this situation, it is important for the office to collect as detailed information as possible about all existing student financial aid programs. It is also necessary to have information about the financial situation of students and target those who are in the most difficult situation. It is important for the office to identify the most problematic areas of the student’s financial situation and evaluate existing programs in accordance with them.
Finally, the office of academic advising can provide the complete information on student engagement in the educational process. This information may contain information about the educational activities of students. Particular attention should be paid to areas where there is low engagement and declining academic performance. Such data will help determine which areas of educational programs are underdeveloped or difficult for students. In particular, it is important to identify potential causes that may cause withdrawal in the future. Academic advising may also have data on the possible difficulties of students with communication within the institution.
Potential Red Flags
Data collection and data analysis enable the institution to identify potential red flags that signal the risk of attrition. It is important to define such aspects as they will later form the basis for the development of the plan. These red flags are the immediate focus of potential interventions to improve student retention and support their academic performance. The points below may signal an increased risk of attrition and the need to take appropriate action:
- SAP Warning indicates that the student failed to meet minimum requirements. This aspect implies that the student is still able to receive the necessary financial aid but needs support to maintain it in the future.
- GPA decline signals a drop-in student performance, which can identify the need for academic support in the next semester.
- Credit hour decline is a sign that student involvement in the educational process is decreasing.
- Difficult course combinations may, in the future, become a source of student dissatisfaction with the educational process. In this situation, it is necessary to pay special attention to academic advising to select the most comfortable program.
- Returning stop-outs can identify students who are re-admitted to the institution. In this case, it is important to identify the reasons for the past leaving and prevent them in the new semester.
- Repetition of the class more than one time can identify student underperformance and potential threats to academic performance.
- Repeating withdrawal may indicate prolonged academic failure or social difficulties.
- If the academic major changes more than once, the student may have difficulty in self-determination and uncertainty about the direction of their education, potentially leading to dissatisfaction.
- Undeclared students with more than 30 credits and no-pref may experience insufficient involvement in graduation and are under the risk of attrition.
- Students with a repeated academic warnings have difficulty in academic performance and social interaction.
- Students registered in a student house but not living there experience a lack of involvement in the education process.
- Unfilled FAFSA application signals a student’s potential reluctance to continue their studies or possible issues with its continuation.
- The lack of registration for the next semester signals dissatisfaction and unwillingness to continue studying.
- Students who have not paid and are not going to pay for the next semester are experiencing difficulties or dissatisfaction.
- Students who do not come for orientation may not be interested in education at the institution.
- An unsubmitted application for graduation signals a gradual trend or unwillingness from the institution.
Efforts Should be Made
Based on the identified red flags, the institution needs to make appropriate efforts to support students who are at risk of attrition. First of all, it is necessary to identify the needs of students that may not be met in the framework of educational programs. Additionally, it is important to identify potential reasons for the reluctance or impossibility of continuing education. In this situation, it is critical for an institution to work directly with individual students. It is necessary to organize counseling for them that would work with their statements and objections. For an institution in this situation, it is necessary to present methods of open and direct communication as soon as possible, within the framework of which students’ problems can be solved.
It is important to pay attention to the collection of all represented offices, which can consolidate the available data. As part of increasing the retention institution, it is necessary to develop new approaches to involving students in the educational process. In this case, they should receive comprehensive support for the development of academic programs. It is also important to pay attention to social interaction within the campus, which can also lead to dissatisfaction. In this situation, it is critical to identify the social aspects that concern students and work to improve them. This may relate to campus improvements, the development of faculty and staff communication skills, or the establishment of communication between students within the institution.
Timeline for Examination
An examination of the data to determine the potential risks of attrition should take place regularly. In particular, most often, difficulties can be identified before the start of a new semester, when all data will be collected. However, the institution needs to collect and analyze information constantly. In general, the initial data collection can take up to three weeks at the beginning of a new semester, which will provide a complete picture of current retention. At the same time, it is necessary to understand that data analysis is necessary every semester in order to collect statistical information and long-term improvements.
Initiatives for the US. News & World Report Ranking
The US. News & World Report ranking is an important indicator of the success of an educational institution. Retention is one of the most important aspects that positively affects the position of an institution in a given ranking. The enrollment management division in this situation should use data such as academic performance of students, including GPA, information on warnings, and withdrawals. Additionally, as much data as possible about the financial and personal backgrounds of students should be used to determine their needs and expectations. It is also important to use information about possible difficulties in choosing subjects, an educational program, or successful completion of classes. The following are suggested interventions that aim to improve student communication and satisfaction with the educational process:
- Creation of a platform for communication education advising and students. Under this initiative, students who are at risk of attrition or have concerns about their educational process can contact academic advising and get support to continue their studies. This platform can be an online communication channel with the board for the fastest possible response to the current situation. The initiative requires the collaboration of the office of institutional research, registrar, financial aid, and academic advising. For effective work, it is also necessary to consolidate all available data on the performance and background of individual students, which requires communication from all offices.
- Creation of a mobile application for communication with students and providing them with relevant information. This initiative assumes that communication between students and the institution should be as transparent and convenient as possible. Difficulties in continuing education for students may arise due to bureaucratic and structural obstacles. In this situation, the educational process should be as comfortable and easy as possible for students, which implies a quick way of informing and communicating. Students can receive various reminders or contact support using the app.
Experience Navigating IPEDS Retention and Graduation Data
IPEDS retention and graduation data reflect what percentage of students successfully complete the program at an educational institution. There are various programs that provide for a different training period, which is important for determining retention. If the student successfully completes the program within the time frame stipulated by the educational institution, then this is a positive sign and identifies the student’s satisfaction with the program.
Consumers of educational services, in particular students and parents, use IPEDS retention and graduation data to make decisions about going to college and choosing a particular institution. In general, this rate determines how successfully an educational institution copes with its task. IPEDS also reflects how quality educational programs an institution offers and how satisfied students are with them.
My personal experience with this rate allowed me to select the most suitable college that would meet my educational needs. In particular, I paid attention to the percentage of graduated students. The higher it is, the higher the retention indicator is shown by the educational institution, which identifies the high quality of educational programs. Moreover, more successful educational institutions receive better funding, which implies more resources. Such educational institutions can not only organize a high-quality educational process, but also support the social and financial capabilities of students. It was important for me to consider the colleges with the highest percentage of graduated students and the highest retention rate.
By choosing a college using IPEDS retention and graduation data, I was able to map out future prospects for myself. This rate helped me make sure that I was likely to finish the program on time. This data allows me to be more confident in my educational program and expect a high level of satisfaction. It is also important that educational institutions with a higher rate invest more in communication with students. Maintaining good performance is one of their priorities, which allows them to pay more attention to meeting student needs. Thus, IPEDS retention and graduation data were useful for me since I based my choice on it. As part of the choice of an educational program, this is an extremely important aspect, as it allows me to better plan the future and make more detailed forecasts. Finally, IPEDS assists in the development of educational institutions through constant competition, which supports their growth.
Kostell, S., & Warrington, S. (2018). Student retention action plan [PDF-file]. The University of Vermont. Web.
Tinto, V. (n.d). The assessment of student retention programs [PDF-file]. Syracuse University. Web.