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Academic Affairs/Student Retention

Volunteer mentors assisting students academically is part of a three-pronged approach to helping at-risk students and boosting retention.

Not so long ago, students at LDS Business College in Salt Lake City whose semester grade-point averages fell below a certain level were placed on academic probation. But it did very little to get them the help they needed.

When Ellison Hall got flooded, student records could have been destroyed­—but were spared.

Central Oklahoma sits snugly in Tornado Alley, but it was a flood, not a twister, that shocked officials at The University of Oklahoma into the realization that student advising records were one natural disaster away from disappearing forever.

It costs much more to recruit new students than to keep the ones you have, which is why retention is so important to colleges and universities.

With a 67 percent one-year retention rate costing $6.5 million in lost revenue annually, Valdosta State University (Ga.) officials knew they had to act. The problem was data that could have helped identify remedies were sorely lacking, and what little information the institution possessed was difficult to access and analyze.

Miami Dade College is the largest and most diverse higher ed institution in the U.S., serving a community as large as the state of Rhode Island. It has 175,000 students and offers more than 300 academic degree programs. Despite its large student body, MDC could serve even more students, so it spends thousands of dollars each year on marketing via the web, radio, and newspaper to attract new applicants.

In these days of instantaneous communication, having to wait for an answer feels anachronistic. If our e-mail isn’t returned within five minutes, we call our colleague to make sure she got it. Technology, it seems, has sped communication as well as slowed it down, as multiple means of messaging?telephones, online channels, face-to-face conversation?crowd one another for attention.

Higher education has its own special kind of bureaucracy, but even by those standards, the convoluted process by which Jamestown Community College (N.Y.) contracted with faculty members to teach extra courses stood out. From creation to submission with payroll, the documents touched more than half a dozen pairs of hands, sometimes delaying payment and increasing the likelihood of misplacement. They were created anew each semester with information from a database that wasn’t always updated, resulting in data entry errors.

The Retention Mentors team, based at various locations across campus, have contact - but not overcontact - with at-risk students to help provide assistance as needed and keep them in school.

Admissions administrators can view reports of applications that have come in.

In-person student leader training is quicker and less costly because of the initial online training.

The whole Document Imaging Taskforce can gather in the space of the Enrollment Management office that was reclaimed from file storage.