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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. Read part 2 here.
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.
Read part 2 of this blog series here, where my colleague Dr. Tim Culver shares strategies for getting your institution ready for student success 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.
We all live in and enjoy the benefits of a sharing economy, where individuals are able to borrow or rent assets owned by someone else. We see this regularly when the price of the asset is high (a car, a home) and not fully utilized all of the time, think Airbnb, Uber. But it can also apply to the sharing of information technology and intellectual resources. It’s that sharing of intellectual resources, specifically, college student success assets, that I want to focus on today.
As educators, the reality of our work today is that we face intense pressure to address our college student success needs. Think performance-based funding, budgeting and net revenue issues, accreditation, local, regional, and national employment trends. And student needs are changing as demographics change; we have less time and resources to design an effective solution, not to mention we have very little room for error. Instead of designing something from the ground up, we often take advantage of our student success sharing economy and frequently look to established best practices, associations, vendors, and colleagues for an idea that can be customized to fit our unique needs and situation.
I hope you’ve taken advantage of the body of knowledge Ruffalo Noel Levitz contributes to the student success sharing economy. One way we contribute is by celebrating effective college retention programs with the Lee Noel and Randi Levitz Retention Excellence Awards (REAs). More than 170 colleges and universities have been honored with Retention Excellence Awards and they all have shared their retention assets via our compendium. If you’re looking for new ideas to serve minority students, to create a comprehensive retention plan, to recruit back stop outs or virtually anything else, check out the retention assets your colleagues have shared.
Naturally, giving is as important as receiving in the college student success sharing economy. I invite you to share your retention assets by applying for a 2017 Retention Excellence Award (REA). Applications are now being accepted and must be completed by March 17, 2017. The application process is brief and is similar to submitting a proposal to present at a conference. Up to three winners will be recognized and the honor includes a free conference registration to the National Conference on Student Marketing Recruitment and Retention being held in Denver, July 26-28, 2017. Winners are featured in a national webinar hosted by Ruffalo Noel Levitz and will serve as a judge in selecting the 2018 winners.
Please take the time to contribute to the student success sharing economy. I encourage you to review the application and consider applying. The process is easy, and the rewards for your campus and our student success sharing economy are many!
Questions? Please contact me directly by email or call me at 800.876.1117, ext. 8787.
How satisfied are your students? You won’t know if you don’t ask. And if you don’t ask, you won’t have the data to build your case for student success initiatives.
Based on the results of our 2015 Student Retention and College Completion Practices Benchmark Report for Two-Year and Four-Year Institutions, student satisfaction assessments are cited by the majority as an effective method for making changes to minimize attrition.
Given that our current higher education environment is placing increasing expectations on performance-based funding and on student success measures, what will it take to get your campus to make student satisfaction assessment a priority?
Maybe it’s one of the several recent studies that link student satisfaction with student retention or higher institutional graduation rates. Or that we know that paying attention to the satisfaction levels of your currently enrolled students has a positive long-term effect on enrollment, student success, and future alumni engagement. And beyond retention efforts, for the 700 institutions we work with on an annual basis, they report using their satisfaction assessment data for strategic planning and accreditation.
Are you seeing an increase in first-generation students at your college or university? Or are you developing programs that focus on first-generation students?
Many campuses have begun targeting first-generation students in their student success initiatives. The reasons for this vary from an increase in enrollment of first-generation students to an enhanced awareness of first-generation students as an at-risk population. Regardless of the reasons why, it is helpful to examine the differing needs of this population of students in order to understand and shape strategies to help more of these students succeed.
What the research shows
The 2015 National Freshman Attitudes Report from Ruffalo Noel Levitz includes responses from 24,409 first-generation students as they began classes in fall 2014 at four-year private, four-year public, and two-year institutions across the country. In examining the first-generation students’ responses, some interesting patterns emerge. Compared with students of college-educated parents, first-gens are:
So, first-gen students bring some clear strengths with them as they enter college; however, they do report challenges as well. Compared again with students of college-educated parents, the first-gen data from this study reveal:
10 priorities for serving first-generation students
As campus leaders marshall their resources to address the needs of first-generation students in order to increase their success rates, here are 10 priorities to guide your efforts:
Explore 85 attitudes held by first-generation freshmen
To learn more about first-generation students, download the 2015 National Freshman Attitudes Report and read more blogs, listed below. For information on gathering noncognitive data to better understand your own first-generation students, or to discuss effective student success strategies for this population, please contact me by email.
Co-written with Kathy Kurz
Kathy Kurz served as vice president of Scannell & Kurz before her retirement. She has extensive experience in retention programs and strategic financial aid, and served at the University of Rochester and Earlham College.
Although you are at the very beginning of a new school year, we suspect many of you are already thinking about retention, especially if fewer students returned than anticipated. But for many campuses, it’s not clear who should be the one leading that thinking.
Time and again during the course of retention best practice reviews, we find that the institution has not appointed a retention “champion.” Numerous individuals from enrollment, student affairs, and academic leadership may be working on various aspects of retention, and there may even be a retention committee or task force, but there is no clear, integrated vision for retention strategies informed by data. In this scenario, because retention is everyone’s responsibility, in effect it becomes no one’s responsibility.
A concerted effort from all parts of the institution is needed for a successful retention program, but because we all know what happens when there are too many cooks in the kitchen, assigning a retention champion is critical to keeping the community focused on the most impactful retention efforts. Typically this champion would also have supervisory responsibility for those areas that are most critical to retention outcomes at the institution. For example, at many institutions, academic success is critical to persistence. Consequently, the retention champion should have supervisory responsibility for all academic support services.
It is also critical that the champion be able to command the respect of both student life professionals and faculty while working toward greater collaboration between these two areas. Often the retention champion reports directly to the president or jointly to the president and provost as a clear signal of the centrality and cross-divisional nature of this work. The champion need not be responsible only for retention (depending on the size of the institution), but if also overseeing other initiatives, must be able to ensure a balanced effort.
Finally, the retention champion must not only provide organizational leadership, but should also be responsible for ensuring retention initiatives are founded in data analysis. Ideally, institutional data—grades, advising, housing, exit interviews, etc.—are combined with external data—National Student Clearinghouse, for example—to “triangulate” solutions. Even when institutions do conduct robust analyses on retention data, this work is episodic rather than sustained, making it difficult to identify trends. And if institutions take the next step to act on the findings, many do not rigorously analyze the impact that these programs have had on persistence to determine whether the investments represent the most effective use of institutional resources. Assigning clear responsibility increases the likelihood that these activities will occur.
Once your campus has that champion, how can you support him or her? These seven strategies have worked for many campuses, and hopefully will provide some food for thought and discussion about not only what you should be doing to increase persistence, but about the responsibilities of your retention champion.
While these are strategies that have worked well for campuses, finding your champion and implementing strategies like these can be difficult. If you wonder how you can unify your campus toward purposeful change for student success, email me and I would be happy to set up a time to discuss retention strategies. I can help you figure out how to transform retention from something many people talk about into a strategic process that guides more of your hard-earned students to graduation.
Dr. Tim Culver, the retention leader of Ruffalo Noel Levitz, recently presented a 45-minute webinar on the essentials of student retention planning for higher education. The recording appears below:
This webinar discussion provides a helpful overview of retention planning from a theoretical and practical standpoint.
Topics covered in this webinar include but are not limited to:
The webinar was presented as part of Bay Path University’s Hot Topics Lecture Series in April 2015.
If you are interested in how you can build a stronger retention plan, please email us and we will have one of our retention consultants get in touch with you.
The vast majority of campuses have spent a considerable amount of time and resources helping to shape the first-year student experience in order to improve student retention and college completion. But with the increased focus on improving college completion rates, we need to “broaden the lens” and look beyond the first-year into the second as well.
It’s harder to focus on second-year college students, as they don’t have the same starting point as first-year college students. They don’t come through common orientation programs, move-in days, first-year seminars, residence halls, or advising programs. Second-year college students are disbursed across their institutions, and campuses tend to operate on the assumption that since they have come back for a second year, they are there to stay—all committed to majors, connected with their faculty and peers, with plans for graduation firmly in place. But are these assumptions valid? Are second-year college students still at risk for leaving before they graduate? What do these students themselves have to tell us about what they need and want now, in their second year of college?
Noel-Levitz data for students at four-year institutions indicate that 16-19 percent of second-year college students leave their first institution at the end of the second year. That can have a significant impact on college completion rates and is especially troubling considering so many second-year college students are eager for assistance.
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.
College transfer students have been a significant yet understudied student population. Thankfully, recent studies have uncovered valuable findings on transfer students.
In July 2013, the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center released Baccalaureate Attainment: A National View of the Postsecondary Outcomes of Students Who Transfer from Two-Year to Four-Year Institutions. The report, which tracked more than 230,000 students, included some informative data about students transferring from two-year institutions to four-year institutions:
Benchmarking yourself against these data and sharing them with institutional constituents pushing for higher completion rates, greater accountability, and affordability could inform the completion agenda, partnerships, articulation agreements, advising, and student support services on your campus.