This is the second part of a two-part article featuring excerpts from a popular Noel-Levitz white paper originally released in 2000, The Earth-Shaking But Quiet Revolution in Retention Management, by Randi Levitz and Lee Noel, founders of Noel-Levitz. Read the first part of the article here or download the original white paper.
Those of us who have been working in this field of student retention almost from the very beginning have learned a great deal. The main thing we have learned is that institutions must deliberately establish a plan to increase student retention. Retention does not just happen. Retention is something we can control. We have learned that this control comes when we put students squarely at the center of a campus. That is what it is all about today at the undergraduate level—thinking about students, understanding students, listening to students, figuring out who is in the classrooms, who is on the campuses. If an institution has residence halls, it needs to ask who is living in those residence halls. We need to move with students, learn with students, understand them and help them succeed. Institutions that put this kind of personal effort into effect can, in fact, experience a tremendous degree of student and institutional success. Retention improvement proceeds on two planes simultaneously—campuswide for all students and directly with individual students.
This necessarily requires a greater emphasis on assessment. Assessment helps us predict dropout-proneness before the student drops out, academic difficulty before it occurs, and educational stress before the student experiences it. It also helps us determine an incoming student’s receptivity to institutional help so we can leverage our time by intervening intensively with students who are likely to respond.
This approach is perhaps best termed “progressive responsibility.” It does not encourage everyone on campus to “hold students’ hands forever,” which is often the faculty’s greatest fear. However, it does advocate additional support to help students get off to a strong start. What it tries to do is provide “stepping stone” approaches so students get the support they need when they enter, thus securing a solid foundation from which to progress to greater degrees of responsibility and independence until they are able to stand independently.