For many years, discussions of college student success focused on the first-year experience. However, college graduation rates (or completion rates) have become an increasingly hot topic in recent years, especially in light of discussions about student loan debt, college costs, and the employment advantages of having a college degree. I think this is a good move because it pushes the discourse toward a student’s academic career rather than just the first year. But what does the literature tell us about student behavior and college completion?
When it comes to graduation and completion, it is imperative that first-year students start strong. Thankfully, we have an excellent starting point in a wealth of research and literature that examine best practices for improving first-year outcomes. Seminal works from John Gardner, Virginia Gordon, Vincent Tinto, Alexander Astin, George Kuh, and of course Lee Noel and Randi Levitz have helped campuses make tremendous strides in providing a quality first-year experience for students. In fact, I’ve left out about 30 others who have done exceptional work as well. I apologize for not being able to name everyone, but my point is there are many sources for you to gather information about student success and first-year student retention.