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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.
Some of you may remember Richard Carlson’s late 1990’s advice, “Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff.” A copy of this motivational book is on my bookshelf. It reminds me not to let the minutiae of life get in the way of the big picture.
However, when it comes to the college experience of today’s students, you may want to reconsider this advice and start paying attention to the little aggravations and annoyances that your students are experiencing, because we have seen that these can indeed make an impact on students’ larger perceptions of your institution. Sometimes, small details truly do matter.
First, let’s look at the big picture.
Over the past 20-plus years, we have studied our National Student Satisfaction and Priorities Reports and consistently seen that a high priority area for improvement for students at four-year private and public institutions is: “Tuition paid is a worthwhile investment.”
|Students attending four-year private institutions||Students attending four-year public institutions|
|Importance to me||88%||86%|
|My satisfaction level||45%||52%|
Source: 2015-2016 National Student Satisfaction and Priorities Report, www.RuffaloNL.com/SatisfactionBenchmarks
The chart above reflects the percentage of students who indicate that this statement is important or very important to them as well as the percentage that say they are satisfied or very satisfied, as measured on our Student Satisfaction Inventory (SSI). The performance gap is the difference between these two numbers. For your reference, in the range of scores at four-year privates, the tuition-is-worth-it statement is eighth in rank order of importance (out of 73 items), but with satisfaction scores that can get as high as 72 percent in the national data, you can see that there is definitely room for improvement here. Similarly, at four-year publics, this statement is again eighth in rank order of importance, and satisfaction scores can range up to 69 percent, so again, improvements can be made at four-year publics as well. (As a side note: Students at two-year community colleges, where tuition amounts are often much lower, score this item higher, with importance at 90 percent and satisfaction at 69 percent.)
When consulting with colleges about their satisfaction scores, I used to recommend that institutions respond to this issue by working to improve students’ perceptions of the value of their education. This included suggestions such as telling students more about job placement rates and other outcomes after graduation, like the success of college alumni. I still believe these are important messages, especially while you are recruiting new students. It is also a good idea to continue to emphasize these messages with enrolled students. But sometimes, if an individual student doesn’t inherently value what you have to offer, it can be difficult to truly change their perception in this area.
Are you seeing an increase in first-generation students at your college or university? Or are you developing programs that focus on first-generation students?
Many campuses have begun targeting first-generation students in their student success initiatives. The reasons for this vary from an increase in enrollment of first-generation students to an enhanced awareness of first-generation students as an at-risk population. Regardless of the reasons why, it is helpful to examine the differing needs of this population of students in order to understand and shape strategies to help more of these students succeed.
What the research shows
The 2015 National Freshman Attitudes Report from Ruffalo Noel Levitz includes responses from 24,409 first-generation students as they began classes in fall 2014 at four-year private, four-year public, and two-year institutions across the country. In examining the first-generation students’ responses, some interesting patterns emerge. Compared with students of college-educated parents, first-gens are:
So, first-gen students bring some clear strengths with them as they enter college; however, they do report challenges as well. Compared again with students of college-educated parents, the first-gen data from this study reveal:
10 priorities for serving first-generation students
As campus leaders marshall their resources to address the needs of first-generation students in order to increase their success rates, here are 10 priorities to guide your efforts:
Explore 85 attitudes held by first-generation freshmen
To learn more about first-generation students, download the 2015 National Freshman Attitudes Report and read more blogs, listed below. For information on gathering noncognitive data to better understand your own first-generation students, or to discuss effective student success strategies for this population, please contact me by email.
Dr. Tim Culver, the retention leader of Ruffalo Noel Levitz, recently presented a 45-minute webinar on the essentials of student retention planning for higher education. The recording appears below:
This webinar discussion provides a helpful overview of retention planning from a theoretical and practical standpoint.
Topics covered in this webinar include but are not limited to:
The webinar was presented as part of Bay Path University’s Hot Topics Lecture Series in April 2015.
If you are interested in how you can build a stronger retention plan, please email us and we will have one of our retention consultants get in touch with you.
This blog post was co-authored by Jennifer Wick, vice president at Scannell & Kurz (an affiliate of Ruffalo Noel Levitz)
Perhaps you have seen our new white paper, Navigating the Student Engagement Stream. On page 8 of this paper, we provide up-to-date definitions and examples of key metrics for student retention and college completion, including this one:
As the national completion agenda grows, there are many colleges, universities and other organizations which are moving us to broaden our thinking, and consequently advise you, on how to plan not only for retention but also for on-time completion. The National Governors Association provides a comprehensive summary of the Common College Completion Metrics nomenclature. Driven by initiatives such as the Scorecard, the Obama administration was developing a College Ratings System, which has recently changed course to providing more consumer information via the College Navigator website. Complete College America describes five game changers that they will help states implement in order to improve on-time completion rates. Traditional graduation metrics defined as 150 percent or greater, of normal time, do not provide a complete picture.
On-time completion and outcomes are becoming the name of the game
The academic experience has always been an integral influence on retention rates, combined with control of entry characteristics (admissions), the student life experience, and overall engagement. However, with the lens now shifting to not just completion, but on-time completion, quality academic advising and curricular pathways that foster successful persistence in courses that count toward the degree plan must come to the fore. Consequently, while it is critical that retention leadership be able to command the respect of both student life and enrollment professionals, it is essential that responsibility for retention reside where there is direct influence on academic support services and faculty. Ideally, effective collaboration exists between all these areas.
We recently worked with an institution whose focus was on improving junior year to on-time graduation rates. Through predictive modeling, we were able to identify statistically significant factors for predicting if students were at risk to not graduate on time. Some important variables included whether or not students had ever been on academic probation, had still yet to declare a major, were commuters, or had a more than a certain amount of unmet need (need minus all grants). Individually, none of these factors are a surprise, but viewed collectively and understanding their relative influence, the institution was able to focus resources on the students who could most benefit. Along with “in-time” intervention, this institution is making longer term investments in enhancements to academic advising and reviewing broader institutional policies surrounding resources designed to keep students on track.
What metrics is your campus using to track retention and completion?
There was an active discussion earlier this month of the shifts toward on-time completion metrics at the 2015 National Conference on Student Recruitment, Marketing, and Retention. Participants from two-year and four-year campuses shared a variety of approaches. If you haven’t done so recently, perhaps your campus could ask this question: Of the students in the fall 2014 cohort, what percentage will return in fall 2015 who are on-time for completion? To be honest, this may be a difficult question to answer for many of you. We have been focusing on first year retention rates for so many years. We think the environment of accountability is slowly pushing us to add yearly on-time completion rates to our planning efforts.
For some additional, helpful perspective on retention and completion metrics, check out the 2015 Student Retention Indicators Benchmark Report and our just-released 2015 Student Retention and College Completion Practices Benchmark Report (see the metrics for retention and college completion which are listed among 33 internal operations in the Appendix).
Questions? Want to discuss your approach?
Are conversations on your campus shifting from retention to completion? What action steps have you taken? Please share your experiences by commenting, and if you’re having trouble turning talk into action, please contact us at 800.756.7483, ext. 5602, or email.
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:
Does your institution offer:
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 email@example.com.
Are you new to your role as a leader of first-year programming? Do you know what your incoming students require to be successful and what resources to recommend? Have you studied the specific needs of diverse student populations within the larger cohort? Do you know how effective your existing programs have been?
If these questions relate to your situation, you’re not alone. While attending the 2015 National Conference on the First-Year Experience last month in Dallas, I talked with colleagues from hundreds of campuses across the country. What was top-of-mind for most was how to be more proactive in planning for incoming students and more timely in responding to students’ needs and requests.
Here are three recommendations that can help you with these tasks:
1) Use data to develop and inform your program goals and outcomes.
2) Determine the ‘profile’ of your incoming cohort of students.
3) Create a plan of action.
Have a question right now about first-year programs? Feel free to contact me. I’ll be happy to share what I’ve learned from working with campuses across the country here at Ruffalo Noel Levitz as we’ve worked together on projects for retention research and assessment. You can reach me by phone at 1-800-876-1117, ext. 8394, or by email.
Many of you have heard me recommend a basic formula for student retention which combines the leading indicators of retention with the actual retention outcome. That formula is P + P = R or persistence plus progression equals retention. While most colleges and universities have policies that allow students to persist from their first term to their second term, those same students may not have progressed, i.e., successfully completed their courses in the first term. I have had conversations with many student success professionals about the above formula and many of us believe that progression indicators are probably more predictive of first year retention than is the persistence indicator.
Let’s take a closer look at progression. Once grades for the first term are posted, many of you may begin to think about the progression indicator of GPA, which may have placed many first year students on warning or probation or suspension, depending upon your policy. At this point, you may ask yourself: Are our probation rates and our students’ credit hours attempted-to-earned ratios “normal” as compared to similar schools? To find out, Noel-Levitz conducts a poll of leading persistence, progression, and retention indicators every other year. Many of you may have participated in the past or in the latest study. See the latest benchmark report to compare your rates with other schools who participated. Once you have compared your first term outcomes, you may want to consider more intensive academic recovery strategies to try to improve progression rates among your students, which, in turn, affects your retention rate.
One must-do intervention for progression
To improve progression rates, I recommend that effective programs which require students to participate in the development of their own academic recovery should be implemented at the end of term one and/or the beginning of term two. These programs can come in the form of courses, individual counseling, academic support, TRIO programs, or a combination of these services. If a student isn’t earning the required GPA or hours that are expected at the end of term one, immediate participation in such academic recovery programs must be expected.
Examples from campuses
I encourage you to discuss the following progression models with your retention committee or task force:
No matter what form your academic recovery strategy takes, please try to be timely in your delivery. Many of you might be on break when or shortly after grades are posted in December. This is the critical time to begin to assess and respond to the progression indicators.
Share your ideas and strategies
I would love to hear from you to learn more about your academic recovery strategies. Please post your ideas so that others might learn from you. Your ideas never to cease to amaze us, and we’re all about helping one another strategize.
If you have questions about P + P = R, or if you’d like to discuss your strategies with me, please e-mail or contact me at 1-800-876-1117, ext. 5602.