The rising cost of college attendance has made students more critical of attending postsecondary institutions. While a college degree is still valued, spiraling costs have triggered emphatic discussions about student debt and the actual worth of a college degree. This critical eye has perhaps impacted the private postsecondary sector the most. I think Fred Lockhart of the Arizona Private School Association (APSA) put it best when he told me that students entering private post-secondary schools want the best education in the least amount of time with the biggest return on investment.
The demographics of the students in this sector have also changed, especially the growth of adult/nontraditional learners who tend to be more purpose driven. Students in the private postsecondary sector also face critical issues impacting student retention, including academic preparedness, a student’s financial wherewithal, student communication, relationship building, tracking and documenting student interactions, and graduate outcomes.
Thankfully, the schools in this sector have a great deal of support through state and national association memberships. The Association of Private Sector Schools and Universities (APSCU) and private postsecondary state associations feel strongly that school leadership needs to embrace a culture of caring and giving, and leaders need resources to make informed decisions. The associations also provide educational training and resources to their member schools. The national and state organizations act as resources for member institutions on public policy related to the sector and provide support for workforce development that will ultimately affect the students they serve. They also provide training at conferences, webinars, and online teaching modules for instructors that address the diverse learning styles in the classroom.
Still, it is important to know your students, and schools that demonstrate caring and giving to the individual needs of the students have more successful retention and graduate outcomes. Administrators and instructors need to be aware of the students’ academic preparedness, learning styles, and student engagement in order to affect student success. In particular, there are three ways campuses can reach out to students, alleviate barriers and stress, and convince them to remain enrolled and on the path to educational completion.