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Improving retention

Unconquered Scholars Program

There’s underserved, and then there’s underserved.

Foster kids. The homeless. Wards of the state. Young people as deserving of a college education as anyone, but victims of circumstances not of their making.

Florida State University in Tallahassee gives this often forgotten population a chance. In addition to offering a pathway to college, the Unconquered Scholars Program provides students with guidance, mentoring, advocacy and a voice. Along with considerable academic support, the program prepares students to live independently—perhaps for the first time in their life.

Dual Degree Program

Elaine Maimon doesn’t mince words when she hears her fellow four-year university presidents complain about the quality of community college students who transfer to their school.

“Universities have not done anything to inspire students to have a coherent experience at the community colleges,” says Maimon, who heads up Governors State University in Illinois. “We at the universities have a responsibility to partner with the community colleges to make sure the students have the best possible chance of having a coherent, quality experience throughout their four years.”

Academic Recovery Program

The idea was this: Require students who have lost “good standing” status—due to academic hiccups or financial troubles—to pay for a two-credit course needed to regain that standing.

But it did not elicit the negative reactions anticipated by officials at Southeast Technical Institute in Sioux Falls, South Dakota.

“I expected to have a line at my door of students upset with me for making them take this course and wanting out,” says Tracy Noldner, vice president of student affairs. “I also thought I was going to have parents calling me upset.”

3-Tiered Model of Advising

You can imagine the reaction when Miami Dade College, with its enrollment of 165,000, expanded its academic advising load to incoming students still in high school. That meant staff would need to advise an additional 14,000 students.

“I still remember one of the very first conversations with the student affairs deans,” says Lenore Rodicio, provost for academic and student affairs. “I thought we were going to need to do some emergency treatment on some of them.”

Insight App

For most high schoolers, it’s mom or dad nagging them to get to school on time, keep track of assignments and meet assignment deadlines.

For University of San Diego students, it’s their phone that keeps them focused.

Administrators saw an opportunity in the overwhelming prevalence of mobile devices on campus to help students become independent.

“We wanted to create something to help empower students to understand and help them with their daily lives,” says Avi Badwal, senior director of enterprise technologies.

Navigation Advising

Advising at State Fair Community College in Missouri begins not just when students enroll, but before they even apply.

State Fair sends staffers from its Navigation Advising program to high schools to discuss how to be a college student. These visits aren’t about recruitment, but a chance to explain the college application process, financial aid and advising, among other topics.

WellsLink Leadership Program

Syracuse University in New York has always had a number of state- and federally funded support programs that help students of color bridge the gap between high school and college, says Huey Hsiao, associate director in the Office of Multicultural Affairs.

The Higher Education Opportunity Program and Student Support Services, for example, offer academic support to underprepared students, who demonstrate potential to succeed in college.

Actionable Intelligence

When the governor says his goal is to graduate 250,000 more students by 2020 and that your university needs to play a major role, any higher ed leader would sit up and take notice. As part of the statewide Complete College Georgia program, Valdosta State University committed to improving its own retention rate, which was 66 percent in 2011.

Passport to Success

Despite a number of initiatives to improve retention rates at Culver-Stockton College, the Missouri school found itself underperforming in comparison to other institutions. Administrators, recognizing the need to try something new, focused specifically on freshman-to-sophomore retention.

Sam Houston Establishing Leadership In and Through Education

When Miguel Arellano Arriaga talks about Sam Houston’s Establishing Leadership In and Through Education program, his perspective is multifaceted. Arellano Arriaga, the coordinator of “SH ELITE” at the Texas university, also went through the program as an undergraduate at Sam Houston.

“It definitely was eye-opening,” he says. “They talk to you about college in high school and they tell you a little bit about what it’s going to be about, but you really don’t know until you get here.”

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