Many of you have heard me recommend a basic formula for student retention which combines the leading indicators of retention with the actual retention outcome. That formula is P + P = R or persistence plus progression equals retention. While most colleges and universities have policies that allow students to persist from their first term to their second term, those same students may not have progressed, i.e., successfully completed their courses in the first term. I have had conversations with many student success professionals about the above formula and many of us believe that progression indicators are probably more predictive of first year retention than is the persistence indicator.
Let’s take a closer look at progression. Once grades for the first term are posted, many of you may begin to think about the progression indicator of GPA, which may have placed many first year students on warning or probation or suspension, depending upon your policy. At this point, you may ask yourself: Are our probation rates and our students’ credit hours attempted-to-earned ratios “normal” as compared to similar schools? To find out, Noel-Levitz conducts a poll of leading persistence, progression, and retention indicators every other year. Many of you may have participated in the past or in the latest study. See the latest benchmark report to compare your rates with other schools who participated. Once you have compared your first term outcomes, you may want to consider more intensive academic recovery strategies to try to improve progression rates among your students, which, in turn, affects your retention rate.
One must-do intervention for progression
To improve progression rates, I recommend that effective programs which require students to participate in the development of their own academic recovery should be implemented at the end of term one and/or the beginning of term two. These programs can come in the form of courses, individual counseling, academic support, TRIO programs, or a combination of these services. If a student isn’t earning the required GPA or hours that are expected at the end of term one, immediate participation in such academic recovery programs must be expected.
Examples from campuses
I encourage you to discuss the following progression models with your retention committee or task force:
- My friends at High Point University in North Carolina use an extensive review process (what one might call a 360-degree review), of each student’s first term and the student’s improvement plan for term two. The plan is developed with a success coach, referrals are made, and progress is monitored.
- Academic recovery at Montana State University Billings comes in the form of a workshop in which all students must participate. Group and individual meetings are held with follow-up and monitoring by success coaches.
- Albion College requires a course taught by counseling staff which has in-depth assessments, appropriate referrals, and ongoing monitoring as its key elements. To learn more about this model, join us at the Noel-Levitz National Conference (NCSRMR) this July in Boston, where Dr. Barry Wolf will deliver his very engaging workshop describing just how Albion manages academic recovery.
No matter what form your academic recovery strategy takes, please try to be timely in your delivery. Many of you might be on break when or shortly after grades are posted in December. This is the critical time to begin to assess and respond to the progression indicators.
Share your ideas and strategies
I would love to hear from you to learn more about your academic recovery strategies. Please post your ideas so that others might learn from you. Your ideas never to cease to amaze us, and we’re all about helping one another strategize.
If you have questions about P + P = R, or if you’d like to discuss your strategies with me, please e-mail or contact me at 1-800-876-1117, ext. 5602.
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