Want to strengthen your student retention strategies?
Learn more about our solutions for student success, or contact Ruffalo Noel Levitz with your student retention questions and challenges.
Learn more about our solutions for student success, or contact Ruffalo Noel Levitz with your student retention questions and challenges.
This is part one of a two-part post on preparing for diverse college student populations. Watch for part two coming soon.
In my more than 20 years working on college campuses, a common theme of conversations has been “are the students we are enrolling ready for college?” This applies to the full range of students: traditional-aged students coming directly from high school, transfer students, adult learners, law school students…. No matter the type of student, faculty and staff frequently ask “are they ready”?
However, now I’m increasingly concerned about whether institutions themselves are “student ready.” Do we know enough about our students as they enter our institutions, either as freshmen or transfers? Do we understand what they are experiencing as they make numerous transitions in their first and second years of enrollment? And do we have nuanced understandings of our diverse college student populations by race/ethnicity, first-generation, by age, and by gender? What do students have in common? Where are their divergent experiences, pressures, and challenges? How prepared is the institution to meet the needs of entering students where they are now, and how solidly in place are the structures for support on day one? Also, do we know what information would be critical to ensure we are “student ready” on day one?
National data on entering students in 2016 was gathered by RNL’s College Student Inventory from 99,300 students attending 290 institutions across North America. Here are some of the key findings, all statistically significant:
By first-generation vs. students with college-educated parents:
Now is the time on most campuses across the country to begin preparing for welcoming new students in the summer and fall. What is driving your decision-making about how to prepare for your newest students? If you’re relying on the traditional (and limited) metrics of high school GPA or transfer student GPA and SAT or ACT, you’re missing significant information that is relevant to student success programs. Having motivational, non-cognitive data available can help you fill in the gaps left by old metrics and ensure that you are “student ready” on Day One.
Interested in learning more about preparing diverse college student populations for success? See all of our reports here on entering students, including the 2017 National Freshman Motivation to Complete College Report and its Addendum by Race/Ethnicity. Questions? Contact us by email or call me at 800.876.1117.
Find out what campuses nationwide are doing to successfully engage students of color, adult learners, online learners, graduate students, and other diverse college student populations. Attend this Symposium to prepare your campus for today’s diverse students. Learn more.
Unable to attend the Symposium? Contact us at 800.876.1117 or send an email to discuss college completion and student success, confidentially, with an expert from Ruffalo Noel Levitz, or learn more about the RNL solutions for student success.
We all live in and enjoy the benefits of a sharing economy, where individuals are able to borrow or rent assets owned by someone else. We see this regularly when the price of the asset is high (a car, a home) and not fully utilized all of the time, think Airbnb, Uber. But it can also apply to the sharing of information technology and intellectual resources. It’s that sharing of intellectual resources, specifically, college student success assets, that I want to focus on today.
As educators, the reality of our work today is that we face intense pressure to address our college student success needs. Think performance-based funding, budgeting and net revenue issues, accreditation, local, regional, and national employment trends. And student needs are changing as demographics change; we have less time and resources to design an effective solution, not to mention we have very little room for error. Instead of designing something from the ground up, we often take advantage of our student success sharing economy and frequently look to established best practices, associations, vendors, and colleagues for an idea that can be customized to fit our unique needs and situation.
I hope you’ve taken advantage of the body of knowledge Ruffalo Noel Levitz contributes to the student success sharing economy. One way we contribute is by celebrating effective college retention programs with the Lee Noel and Randi Levitz Retention Excellence Awards (REAs). More than 170 colleges and universities have been honored with Retention Excellence Awards and they all have shared their retention assets via our compendium. If you’re looking for new ideas to serve minority students, to create a comprehensive retention plan, to recruit back stop outs or virtually anything else, check out the retention assets your colleagues have shared.
Naturally, giving is as important as receiving in the college student success sharing economy. I invite you to share your retention assets by applying for a 2017 Retention Excellence Award (REA). Applications are now being accepted and must be completed by March 17, 2017. The application process is brief and is similar to submitting a proposal to present at a conference. Up to three winners will be recognized and the honor includes a free conference registration to the National Conference on Student Marketing Recruitment and Retention being held in Denver, July 26-28, 2017. Winners are featured in a national webinar hosted by Ruffalo Noel Levitz and will serve as a judge in selecting the 2018 winners.
Please take the time to contribute to the student success sharing economy. I encourage you to review the application and consider applying. The process is easy, and the rewards for your campus and our student success sharing economy are many!
Questions? Please contact me directly by email or call me at 800.876.1117, ext. 8787.
Earlier this year, I wrote about why we need to hear about college retention programs that are working. I shared that we have the opportunity to learn from the excellent retention programs that are making a difference in student success across the county. Part of my intention in writing that blog was to encourage institutions to apply for the 2015 Lee Noel and Randi Levitz Retention Excellence Awards (REAs). More than 165 colleges and universities have received this award since the REAs began in 1989, and I am excited to share the three institutions (and their retention programs) that are joining this prestigious list in 2015:
A common theme among these programs is the importance of innovation in retention.
The Operation Degree Completion program at the University of Central Oklahoma has two steps. The first step is to track down students who have disappeared from campus even after completing almost all of the requirements to graduate and then guide them to graduation. The solution could be changing a major to a more general degree, or taking just one more course, or simply applying for graduation. The full-time advisor for the program knows a little about re-admissions and financial aid and a lot about persistence!
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. Unofficial transcripts are provided to the community college for each eligible student, and a degree check is run by the community college adviser. Students are then contacted and informed of their new degrees. How innovative is it to improve institutional graduation rates with students who have already achieved (or almost achieved) the requirements and simply don’t know it? Can you imagine how thrilled these students must be?
Result: Since the inception of Operation Degree Completion, the university has awarded 270 bachelor’s degrees, exceeding its goal one year early, and is on track to facilitate more than 2,000 associate degrees. In addition, the program generated an additional 10,651 credit hours due to students returning to complete their degrees. This represents $1.7 million in additional tuition revenue.
Edgewood College’s Strategic Retention Plan is a multiyear, collegewide project. The Strategic Retention Plan guides efforts to puts students and their success at the heart of what the college does. One initial step of the plan was to establish a group of faculty, staff, and students to research and make recommendations to strengthen the first-year experience. Action steps included establishing a common reading program, expanding the first-year seminar to a three-credit academically-oriented class, expanding the early alert program, and revising the academic advising infrastructure.
Once Edgewood College experienced success with first-year students, they turned their attention to second-year students. Activities included a “sophomore summit” to share research findings, the development of a “welcome to the academic department” program, and a more comprehensive approach to working with students who have not yet declared a major. Edgewood’s Strategic Retention Plan objectives are reviewed annually and action steps are updated quarterly by the retention council. While many of these initiatives are commonly recognized best practices, Edgewood’s comprehensive approach has been innovative and successful in improving student success.
Result: Since committing to this approach, retention for first-year students has steadily increased from a low of 66 percent in 2005 to a high of 82 percent in 2012. Four-year graduation has increased from 27 percent in 2005 to 40 percent in 2014. Five-year graduation has increased from 48 percent in 2005 to 55 percent in 2014. In addition, students indicate higher levels of engagement and satisfaction, and alumni continue to report strong employment and graduate school placement rates.
Supported by a U.S. Department of Education Title III grant, Grand Rapids Community College created FastTrack–a program to help students bypass developmental education with an emphasis on retention and completion. FastTrack 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. There are specific labs for reading, English, and math. The purpose of the program is to give developmental students an opportunity to accelerate skill building so they are able to bypass developmental course work and move directly into college-level courses. Eligible students are referred to FastTrack after they complete their placement tests, and students who choose to participate must accept the requirements to participate in the program (including completing a mandatory student success plan with an advisor and working with a college success coach).
FastTrack is free for qualifying students. Once they complete the program, they are eligible to retake the placement exam for the subject they remediated. This is an innovative approach that avoids students getting slowed down in a semester-long developmental class and gets them into college-level classes sooner and more successfully.
Result: Since FastTrack’s implementation in 2012, 837 students have been recruited for the program and 651 students successfully completed the three-week program. Of those 651 students, 449 were successful in their retake of the placement test and were able to avoid one or more developmental education courses. FastTrack 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.
This year’s winners will receive their awards and share their stories during the Ruffalo Noel Levitz National Conference on Student Recruitment, Marketing, and Retention in Boston July 8-10. If you are not able to join us in Boston this year, you will also have a chance to learn more about these innovative programs during a free webinar on Tuesday, September 29. You can register for this event now. I also invite you to download the PDF of the Compendium of Successful, Innovative Retention Programs and Practices, which provide descriptions of the programs that have been recognized from 1989-2014 (we will be adding this year’s winners to that compendium after they receive their awards).
What are you doing to improve student success on your campus? Consider sharing your approach with us by applying for next year’s Retention Excellence Awards. The application will be available in March 2016. In the meantime, feel free to contact me if you have questions about successful retention practices in general.
Many in higher education are zeroing in on improving college completion rates among transfer students—a growing undergraduate subpopulation on campuses of all types. Yet data from our latest research study shown above indicate that retention programming for transfer students lags behind when compared with first-year student retention programs.
For example, 44 percent of the four-year private institution respondents in the study rated their first-year student programs “very effective” on a rating scale that used a four-part scale: “very effective,” “somewhat effective,” “minimally effective,” and “method not used.” Yet just 15 percent of these same respondents rated their transfer student programs “very effective.” Respondents from four-year public institutions and two-year public institutions also gave lower ratings to transfer student programs.
A new study of slumping motivation among last year’s sophomores has found that many respondents indeed did not feel energized by their courses and shows some of the reasons why—including relatively low satisfaction in areas such as students’ frequency of communication with advisors and the availability of work experiences associated with students’ career interests. The findings shed light on the mindsets behind the substantial dropout rate of second-year college students nationally, reported earlier this year by Noel-Levitz.
Note: This blog post was written in collaboration with Beth Richter, Ph.D., associate vice president of retention solutions for Noel-Levitz.
Those who are responsible for delivering services to college freshmen are frequently challenged to do more with less. At the same time, there is often a strong push to more fully meet the needs of first-year students. So how DO you determine which services require more or fewer resources? And on what basis are the staffing levels for these services ever “enough”?
To help with weighing the options, and to help more freshmen reach college completion, a new set of metrics is now available using Noel-Levitz’s early-alert Mid-Year Student Assessment and its accompanying 2012 Report: The Attitudes and Needs of Freshmen at Mid-Year, which aggregates the responses to the assessment from freshmen nationally. These metrics include:
These metrics, based on student surveys, can help with prioritization and retention management, and they can be especially valuable for determining differences in needs for specific groups of students (at-risk students, in-state vs. out-of-state students, nontraditional undergraduates, residential students vs. commuters, males vs. females, etc.). In addition, advisors, counselors, first-year experience instructors, and other student success professionals can use the findings to proactively identify and intervene with individual, at-risk students based on each student’s self-reported needs in each of the 24 areas examined.
The following are examples of specific campus services that were unable to meet student demand between the start and the middle of the 2011-2012 academic year based on the self-reported survey responses of 4,000 freshmen nationally in the above-mentioned 2012 report.
The illustration above highlights findings from the 2012 National Freshman Attitudes Report, recently released by Noel-Levitz. Along with identifying needs for college freshmen as a whole, the report identifies the specific needs of subpopulations, as shown, to assist institutions with identifying and targeting appropriate educational interventions.
On most campuses, we feel as if we’re sprinting down the home stretch to the lazy days of summer. However, in terms of year to year retention, we’re still mid-way through the race.
Noel-Levitz research shows that, for both first- and second-year cohorts, more students make the decision not to return during the spring and summer months than between the fall and spring terms. Thus there is a compelling reason for extra focus and emphasis this time of year and over the summer months.
Lew Sanborne, one of our Noel-Levitz retention consultants, works with his clients now, while the students are still enrolled, to make sure that continuing students are well positioned and confident for a smooth transition back to campus in the fall. Lew and his clients typically focus on the following areas.
In 1989, Lee Noel and Randi Levitz created the Retention Excellence Awards (REA) to honor colleges and universities that had established the most successful, state-of-the art retention programs. Since the program began, 26 community colleges, 31 private four-year campuses, and 84 public four-year colleges and universities have received Retention Excellence Awards. Every year, they are honored at the National Conference on Student Recruitment, Marketing, and Retention. As a result of this national exposure, these award-winning programs have served as models of retention excellence to stimulate the creativity and energy of hundreds of two-year and four-year institutions.
I was thinking that there are probably are common characteristics among these programs and thought it would be fun and illuminating to review them to get a sense of what makes them exceptional. Our panel of national judges uses criteria to assess the winners each year, but for my own review I used a very informal, non-scientific, non-computerized coding approach (I will call it Culver Coding) to see what came to the top. (Descriptions of all the winning programs are available in a PDF compendium at the Noel-Levitz site.)
When the dust cleared and Culver Coding was deemed successful (by Culver of course), here is what I saw. Most of these outstanding programs have three commonalities among them.