The National Commission on Higher Education Attainment recently released an open letter to college and university leaders called, “College Completion Must Be Our Priority,” which extols the importance of focusing on college completion and student retention initiatives. Clearly, the momentum is building for higher education professionals to consider the total value that they offer to students and their families – one that includes the likelihood that students will graduate from the institution.
New data from Noel-Levitz’s soon-to-be-released Fall 2012 New Student Enrollment and Retention Outcomes Report show that although many four-year institutions continue to raise the bar on their retention efforts, very few of these institutions are managing to exceed their goals.
In particular, as shown in the illustration above, more than half of both public and private four-year institutions that participated in the study reported raising their 2012 goal for first-to-second-year retention from its 2011 level. But, of those institutions that raised their goals, just 30.8 percent of four-year private institutions and 12.5 percent of four-year public institutions managed to exceed their new goal.
While it seems that many institutions are more aggressively working to improve student retention and success each year, the majority of four-year institutions are struggling to meet the demand of their higher goals. Noel-Levitz’s 2012 National Satisfaction and Priorities Report is a useful resource for campuses hoping to strengthen student success initiatives. The report, released earlier this year, details national student satisfaction levels and associated priorities for college students.
Is your institution looking for opportunities to improve student retention efforts? Send us an e-mail to discuss your specific campus challenges with one of our consultants.
Note: The above graphic was updated on December 11, 2012 to reflect a correction in the data. We had previously reported that 23.3 percent of four-year private and 39.5 percent of four-year public institutions reported a decline in retention rates, but the actual rates were 27.8 percent and 50 percent at private and public institutions, respectively, as shown above.
Our latest research report, the Mid-Year Student Retention Indicators Report, showcases some important benchmarks when measuring retention and completion rates. The information can be useful for institutions looking to compare their performance to national standards. But colleges and universities that are looking for specific ways to improve their own retention rates will need to do more than just analyze national trends. They need to set realistic retention goals and develop strategies to reach those goals.
These two processes can be overwhelming for institutions facing significant student losses, or even for campuses looking for small improvements in student retention. However, the following six steps can help guide your institution through the goal-setting process and help you turn those goals into retention strategies that work.
1. Find out your campus’ retention indicators
Looking at trends and data from other institutions can be useful for comparison’s sake, but when figuring out how best to improve retention rates at your campus, it’s crucial that you identify which specific challenges and opportunities are especially pertinent to your students. Set up a side-by-side comparison of the benchmarks in our report and your own trend data to assess your performance and better understand which factors serve as indicators for your retention success.