Most of you at four-year institutions have begun your fall term, or will begin soon, and have welcomed your new class, the class of 2020. But are they really? Some of them will be the class of 2020 and others will be the class of 2021 and a few more will be part of the class of 2022. If you’re reading this, then you’re most likely looking for some ideas for your campus to implement in your retention and completion planning. Here are three tips for you to consider.
First, please know what “normal” retention and completion rates are for your school type. I’ll give you an example but if you don’t know what your type is then please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and we will define your type. This is the first critical step.
Here’s the example. Let’s assume you are a traditionally admitting school, which means your middle ACT composite range is about 18-24 and your SAT middle score range (all three tests) is about 1290-1650. Also, you are a public institution with a Carnegie Classification of baccalaureate offerings only. If this is you, then your retention rate on average should be about 70 percent and your five-year graduation rate should be around 38 percent.
If the national average for your school type is 70 percent and your campus has set a first-year retention rate goal of 80 percent then you may have a harder time achieving your goal unless you invest in aggressive strategy implementation.
Second, now that you know what is normal, you’ll need to assess what is actual. I always find this to be the most interesting part of the analysis. Recently, I made my first visit to one of the institutions I work with. I met with the Cabinet and they described their vision to have a 60 percent, six-year graduation rate. I asked them what data they had used to establish this vision and the answer was a list of schools they wanted to be like – their aspirant list. I think most schools have either competitor or aspirant lists or both. Anyway, my first question was this: What is your normal persistence and completion pattern? I saw some glances around the room and then asked them to track their 2007-14 cohorts, term-by-term, six years out, so we could see what really happens. The chart below is what really happened.