The idea of a “typical” college student has become a thing of the past. For many colleges and universities today, the “traditional” student is now the minority population, or one population among many. Demographic changes on our campuses and in our programs are one of the most significant trends of this century and the new “look” of our student populations is only going to continue into the future.
So, how can your institution respond? Being prepared for these changes is one of the biggest challenges campus leaders are facing—especially in light of increased pressure to improve student success results as measured by increasing retention and graduation rates.
To assist institutions with responding effectively, I invite you to download our newest 2015 National Freshman Attitudes Report for Four-Year and Two-Year Institutions, which highlights key differences in today’s freshmen by age, race, gender, and for first-generation students. I’ll also be presenting some strategies at the upcoming Symposium on the Recruitment and Retention of Diverse Populations and am sharing some suggestions below.
The following is a quick checklist to assist your institution with identifying opportunities to better serve diverse populations.
Does your institution track and use:
- Data about the diversity of your entering students to drive program design and development? Do you provide both integrated and differentiated programming that addresses both a common core of needs as well as population-specific needs?
- Evidence of diverse student success in the form of persistence rates, progression rates, retention rates, and graduation rates on your diverse students, as well as graduate school placement rates and employment rates after graduation?
Does your institution offer:
- Orientation programs tailored specifically for diverse students, including segments that address concerns such as academic preparation, finances, career exploration, and meaningful work experiences? Extended orientation?
- Programs beyond the usual classroom and advising services that connect students to faculty, staff, and students within academic or co-curricular interest areas?
- Faculty and staff development programs to help faculty and staff understand the needs of diverse populations?
- Mentoring programs for diverse students? Including peer mentors?
- Advisors within the student’s major/area of interest with an early focus on confirming or further refining a written academic plan?
- “Early alert” sensor systems that identify diverse students in need of support, including those who are less receptive to support?
- Targeted referrals and communications to connect at-risk students to academic resources/tutoring services?
- Career services that target diverse students to provide assistance with academic planning/internship/work opportunities related to the major? Including opportunities for diverse students to network with alumni for internship/employment opportunities?
- Academic support services based on areas of student need and student demand?
- Communications and programs for parents of diverse populations?
- Membership in academic honor organizations? Leadership opportunities and recognition?
- Research that identifies the satisfaction of diverse students about their college experiences? Are the voices of diverse students “heard”?
Which of these initiatives should become a priority at your institution? In what other ways can your institution position itself to meet the differing needs of specific populations, as early as possible in students’ college careers? What purposeful strategies and opportunities can be put in place to improve your students’ persistence, retention, completion, and graduation rates?
To further explore these topics, I invite you to participate in one of our upcoming webinars:
For continued discussion, or for information about the retention services of Ruffalo Noel Levitz, I invite you to contact me by phone at 1-800-876-1117 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.