It’s that time of year when retention committees, student success professionals, and leadership teams all across the country calculate the retention rate for the fall 2013 cohort and compare it with their previous years’ outcomes. Some campuses have undoubtedly stayed the same, others decreased, and some increased, but the overall conversation is usually about how “it” can be done better for the fall 2014 class.
Let’s talk about “it” for a minute. Many of you may have read in a previous post that I don’t believe any of you get up in the morning and go to work to do retention. Retention isn’t what you do. “It” is an outcome of what you do. “It” is the result of quality faculty, staff, programs and services. As you consider improvements to your efforts which will impact the fall 2014 entering class and beyond, please keep in mind the following three student retention strategies and practices.
1. Assess college student retention outcomes completely
The first strategy I want you to consider is comprehensive outcomes assessment. All colleges and universities compute a retention rate at this time of year because it has to be submitted via the IPEDS system as a part of federal requirements. But many schools go above and beyond what is required and compute other retention rates to inform planning purposes. For example, at what rates did you retain special populations or students enrolled in programs designed to improve student success? In order to best understand what contributed to the overall retention rate, other outcomes have to be assessed as well. For instance, how many students persisted but didn’t progress? Before you finalize the college student retention strategies for your fall 2014 students, be sure that you know how your 2013 students persisted and progressed so that strategies can be developed in advance. An example would be a targeted, intrusive, and intentional academic recovery program that happens in spring and summer terms for instance. My friends at Cardinal Stritch University do this very well.