What makes a college student retention program exceptional?
That is a question that the Lee Noel and Randi Levitz Retention Excellence Awards tackle every year. This program honors exceptional college student retention programs from around the country, recognizing the most innovative and effective programs that have helped more students persist, succeed, and complete their educational goals. More than 160 institutions have been honored since the awards began in 1989, and the winners include campuses of every size, type, and mission: four-year privates, four-year publics, and community, junior, and technical colleges.
The three most recent winners serve as models for institutional leaders who would like to develop and fine-tune programs as diverse as recruit back and reverse transfer, strategic retention planning, and developmental math and English success rates.
- The University of Central Oklahoma: Operation Degree Completion
Operation Degree Completion is a two-step program. The first part involves tracking down students who have disappeared from campus even though they have completed almost all of their requirements and guiding them to graduation. The second step builds on reverse transfer trends by identifying transfer students who have enough credits to receive an associate’s degree from the originating community college. This innovative program is improving institutional graduation rates and represented $1.7 million in additional tuition revenue.
- Edgewood College (WI): Strategic Retention Plan
Edgewood College’s Strategic Retention Plan is a multi-year, collegewide project that puts students and their success at the heart of what the college does. The plan includes initiatives for first-year and second-year students. The plan’s objectives are reviewed annually and action steps are updated quarterly by the retention council. This comprehensive approach has been successful in improving student success. For example, four-year graduation rates have increased from 27 percent in 2005 to 40 percent in 2014. Student satisfaction and engagement have also increased.
- Grand Rapids Community College (MI): Fast Track
Supported by a U.S. Department of Education Title III grant, Grand Rapids Community College created Fast Track – a program to help students bypass developmental education with an emphasis on retention and completion. Fast Track is an intensive three-week, 14-hour-per-week learning lab in which students remediate academic skills through a combination of web-based and tutor-guided activities. Fast Track participation saved a total of $324,000 worth of in-district tuition, fees, and books for students, as well as a total of 33,480 hours of instruction for students who bypassed their placement.
You can hear how these institutions launched, nurtured, and grew these initiatives into effective retention programs by listening to the webinar spotlighting these three institutions:
In this recording, each winner provides an overview of their program and results, sharing insightful first-hand nuggets for developing or enhancing similar programs.
I also encourage you to download the Compendium of Retention Excellence Award Winners 1989-2015. The Compendium details each winner’s strategies and outcomes, and is indexed by institution type.
Be recognized for your college student retention success story
Do you have a successful retention program you would like to share? Apply for a 2016 Retention Excellence Award. Applications are now being accepted until March 18. If chosen, your institution will be honored at an award ceremony during the 2016 Ruffalo Noel Levitz National Conference on Student Recruitment Marketing and Retention, July 26-28, 2016 in Dallas, Texas. Sharing your story will help inspire other institutions as they work to improve college student retention and completion.
If you have any questions about the awards and application process, or would like to discuss evaluating and strengthening your own student retention initiatives, please email me.