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Learn more about our solutions for student success, or contact Ruffalo Noel Levitz with your student retention questions and challenges.
Learn more about our solutions for student success, or contact Ruffalo Noel Levitz with your student retention questions and challenges.
This is part one of a two-part post on preparing for diverse college student populations. Watch for part two coming soon.
In my more than 20 years working on college campuses, a common theme of conversations has been “are the students we are enrolling ready for college?” This applies to the full range of students: traditional-aged students coming directly from high school, transfer students, adult learners, law school students…. No matter the type of student, faculty and staff frequently ask “are they ready”?
However, now I’m increasingly concerned about whether institutions themselves are “student ready.” Do we know enough about our students as they enter our institutions, either as freshmen or transfers? Do we understand what they are experiencing as they make numerous transitions in their first and second years of enrollment? And do we have nuanced understandings of our diverse college student populations by race/ethnicity, first-generation, by age, and by gender? What do students have in common? Where are their divergent experiences, pressures, and challenges? How prepared is the institution to meet the needs of entering students where they are now, and how solidly in place are the structures for support on day one? Also, do we know what information would be critical to ensure we are “student ready” on day one?
National data on entering students in 2016 was gathered by RNL’s College Student Inventory from 99,300 students attending 290 institutions across North America. Here are some of the key findings, all statistically significant:
By first-generation vs. students with college-educated parents:
Now is the time on most campuses across the country to begin preparing for welcoming new students in the summer and fall. What is driving your decision-making about how to prepare for your newest students? If you’re relying on the traditional (and limited) metrics of high school GPA or transfer student GPA and SAT or ACT, you’re missing significant information that is relevant to student success programs. Having motivational, non-cognitive data available can help you fill in the gaps left by old metrics and ensure that you are “student ready” on Day One.
Interested in learning more about preparing diverse college student populations for success? See all of our reports here on entering students, including the 2017 National Freshman Motivation to Complete College Report and its Addendum by Race/Ethnicity. Questions? Contact us by email or call me at 800.876.1117.
Find out what campuses nationwide are doing to successfully engage students of color, adult learners, online learners, graduate students, and other diverse college student populations. Attend this Symposium to prepare your campus for today’s diverse students. Learn more.
Unable to attend the Symposium? Contact us at 800.876.1117 or send an email to discuss college completion and student success, confidentially, with an expert from Ruffalo Noel Levitz, or learn more about the RNL solutions for student success.
Last year, the student success coordinator at a client institution of mine shared a story that may be familiar to those who lead the efforts to improve student retention and graduation rates on your own campuses.
A faculty member was nonplussed when the most recent freshman cohort retention figures showed that first-to-second-year retention had improved by about 2 percentage points. A “what’s the big deal” comment was followed by “is it even statistically significant?” After hearing this story, I suggested to the student success coordinator that if her colleague doesn’t see improved student success as good news for both students and the institution serving them, than an appeal to her colleague’s understanding of the bottom line might be convincing.
In this case, net revenue per freshman was about $15,000/year, and a 2 percentage point increase in retention rate translated to 12 additional students persisting to sophomore year. That’s $180,000 in additional net revenue in the second year, not counting room revenue. Using average persistence rates to junior year, 10 would still be enrolled, and eventually 9 students would persist to senior year. That equates to $150,000 and $135,000 in years three and four. In total, the 2 percentage point improvement in retention was likely to result in about $465,000 additional net revenue over a three-year period for the first cohort alone, not counting the additional revenue gained from each subsequent cohort cycle. For small, tuition-dependent institutions, that’s nothing to sneeze at.
At the same institution, the institutional research officer was interested in gaining a better understanding of the internal migration patterns of students who change majors, especially those who began as biology majors. They were seeking to answer not only the question of whether students in a particular major were leaving the institution at higher rates than other majors, but also whether they were remaining as science majors or migrating to majors within another academic division. This need for additional data aligned nicely with the fact that an intentional by-product of our retention predictive modeling and best-practice review is to encourage our clients to do a better job of tracking retention by various subpopulations. To that end, we provide reports to demonstrate movement among majors over time. In this instance, a custom report was designed that the IR director could then replicate internally. This provided the institution with valuable data for planning as they sought to identify majors that, even though initial demand (first-time majors) may not have been strong, showed enrollment increases over time as a result of internal transfers. The financial consequences of enrollments by major would not have been obvious from looking exclusively at initial enrollment data.
When students wait to enroll until the last minute, it matters. These delays often influence not only college enrollments but also retention and completion. Do you know how many of your new students wait to decide until the final weeks before classes? Nationally, nearly 20 percent of students do this. Here are some breakdowns:
Above: findings from Noel-Levitz’s 2014 National Freshman Attitudes Report indicate that 15 percent of students at four-year private institutions, 12 percent of students at four-year public institutions, and 27 percent of students at two-year institutions wait to make their college decision until a few weeks before classes begin. Across sectors, there is also evidence that greater proportions of “late decision” enrollees are first-generation, male, and students of color.
With some modest fluctuations, “late deciders” have generally held steady over the past five years among incoming freshmen at four-year public institutions and at two-year public and private institutions. However, these students appear to be declining at four-year private institutions, dropping to 15 percent in recent years after hovering at 18 to 22 percent from 2006-10.
Join us November 19 for a one-hour webinar: Building Student Success Strategies Based on Students’ Motivational Needs. When a student delays an enrollment decision, it can signal a lower level of motivation. At this webinar, we’ll share examples that illustrate how to make student motivation a central part of college completion programming for your campus. We hope you will join us. For more information, email us or call Noel-Levitz at 1-800-876-1117.
Above, early findings from Noel-Levitz’s forthcoming 2014 National Freshman Attitudes Report and its Race/Ethnicity Addendum (to be released in spring 2014) indicate strong interest in receiving career counseling among today’s entering undergraduates, led by students of color.
An area of increasing importance to student retention and college completion, career counseling—and the effectiveness of academic advising related to career discernment—can make a substantial impact on incoming students’ desire and motivation to continue their education.
As shown in blue in the chart above, Asian students appear to be the most receptive to career counseling assistance, at 78.2 percent, while white/Caucasian students appear to be the least receptive, at 61.6 percent.
Overall, the percentages shown above for the survey item, “I would like some help selecting an educational plan that will prepare me to get a good job,” ranked second-highest of 25 measurements of entering students’ receptivity to institutional services that are documented in the report, only trailing students’ desire to receive instruction in effective ways to take college exams.
Across the 25 measures, Asian students and African-American students tended to indicate the greatest receptivity to institutional services, while white/Caucasian students tended to indicate the least receptivity.
If enhancing diversity is a priority on your campus, consider sending a team to the upcoming 2014 Symposium on the Recruitment and Retention of Students of Color on April 14-15, 2014. Hear 20 sessions led by experienced practitioners and higher education consultants. Attending this forum is an excellent way to stay on top of the latest trends and to find new ways to continue building diversity.
A new study of slumping motivation among last year’s sophomores has found that many respondents indeed did not feel energized by their courses and shows some of the reasons why—including relatively low satisfaction in areas such as students’ frequency of communication with advisors and the availability of work experiences associated with students’ career interests. The findings shed light on the mindsets behind the substantial dropout rate of second-year college students nationally, reported earlier this year by Noel-Levitz.
In part one of this blog series, I introduced you to the concept of a student success relationship management model which spanned the lifecycle of your students. Please take a quick look at the model which is also reproduced below.
I promised to expand upon the retention planning framework in this second part to discuss more about pathways to completion, milestone achievement, milestone measurements, strategies, and action plans which are part of a typical planning approach.
Based on my previous blogs, you know that I am a strong believer in surveying to determine your students’ satisfaction levels. Having data directly from your students about what is most important to them and how they feel your institution is performing can really help you understand current perceptions at your institution and priority areas for improvement.
But have you considered that your students are not the only ones with opinions and perceptions about your campus? Two other key populations can also impact how successful you are in serving students and communicating the issues of greatest importance: your campus personnel (including your faculty, administration, and staff) and the parents of your currently enrolled students (especially at four-year campuses serving traditional students).
Let’s take a closer look at national data collected from these three populations. These data sets rate both satisfaction on issues as well as the importance of that issue. The student data are from the Student Satisfaction Inventory, the campus personnel data are from the Institutional Priorities Survey, and the parent perceptions are from the Parent Satisfaction Inventory. For purposes of comparison, I am focusing on the four-year private results from 2009 through 2012.
With just a few months left in this school year, it’s a great time to talk about your student success relationship management model and how your retention and graduation planning efforts match. Some of you may have read Strategic Enrollment Planning: A Dynamic Collaboration, published earlier this year by Noel-Levitz. In Chapter 12, which I had the pleasure to author, I briefly touched on the concept of milestone management, which I learned about from reading an article from Leinbach & Jenkins (2008). The article, Using longitudinal data to increase community college student success: A guide to measuring milestone and momentum point attainment, helped me better understand the student success lifecycle and the implications for retention and graduation planning.
Over the past few years, I have been developing my thoughts regarding student success relationship management and have come to believe that there are many parallels to top-of-the-funnel management in student recruitment. What do I mean by top of the funnel? Admissions directors for years have been managing “milestones” as the student enters into your enrollment funnel. For example, when admissions offices attempt to convert an inquiry to an application to an enrollment, they are managing measurable milestones. They coordinate relationship management strategies in order to eventually yield a class. We call these measurements conversion and yield rates. My thought is that if a class has been “yielded,” then the students success relationship management model should be designed to “re-yield” the class each term until graduation or completion.
Each year, Noel-Levitz releases the National Freshman Attitudes Report, a summary of the self-reported attitudes of incoming college students that may pose barriers or opportunities for degree persistence and college completion. These “non-cognitive” findings go beyond the usual test scores and high school transcripts to provide an overview of how students’ attitudes, motivations, and college preparation are changing from year to year. Non-cognitive factors are important to consider, and in the newly-released 2013 National Freshman Attitudes Report, we identify a number of ways these data can be used to inform and guide your campus.
Use non-cognitive student assessment data on your campus to: