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Student Retention

There are more out lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) college students today than there have been at any other time in the history of higher education. In decades past, many young LGBT people experienced their coming out processes in college, yet today’s rising college freshmen have increasingly become more out and more vocal in high school and even in middle school.

Last August, when a 5.8-magnitude earthquake shook Virginia, people in offices up the East Coast were reading about the quake before they felt their desks not-so-mysteriously begin to wobble. How? Chalk it up to another feat of Twitter (by this time it had already helped topple unruly regimes in the Middle East). During the earthquake, users tweeted at a rate of 5,500 tweets per second, with 40,000 tweets hitting Twitter timelines and TweetDecks in just one minute.

Students enrolled in remedial courses at Holmes Community College seem to be sticking it out in those courses, and the use of lecture capture may well be a big factor in why. Photo: Courtney Lange / Holmes Community College Staff Writer/Photographer

Boosting success for students in remedial education is crucial, particularly given the readiness gap seen at some community colleges. A recent report from McGraw-Hill Higher Education showed that despite receiving a high school diploma, at least 75 percent of first-year students at community colleges aren’t college-ready. And the number of students dropping out during their first year of college continues to rise. This can be attributed to a number of factors, including financial difficulties.

As new high school graduates anxiously await acceptance letters from their favorite colleges, many will start to plan for this new chapter in their lives by seeking student loans and financial aid to pay for it. After running the gauntlet of qualifying for loans and assistance, many will forget all about it.

Student retention is a big problem that doesn’t get the attention it deserves. About one-third of college students fail to obtain a degree six years after taking their first college course, and the United States is no longer in the top 10 list of countries with the highest graduation rates, according to the College Board. The drop-out rate affects long-term economic prosperity nationwide. This is particularly true in an age where knowledge, creativity, and innovation are key drivers in a globalized economy.

Public institutions may have lower graduation rates, but in moving students toward graduation, it appears they’re more successful than private institutions, according to a report assessing graduation rates from the Higher Education Research Institute at UCLA. It introduces a new method for predicting an institution’s graduation rate, based on social, economic, and psychological characteristics of incoming students.

With Latinos now representing one in six U.S. residents, the international competitiveness of the nation will depend on the academic success of Latino students, notes the opening of a recent College Board report on Latino college completion. Although the national average of 25- to 34-year-olds in 2009 who had attained an associate degree or higher was 41 percent, just 19 percent of Latinos had done so.

Sometimes you don’t even know you need a solution until one presents itself. At least that’s how Tegrity Lecture Capture grew from a classroom product to a tool embedded in nearly every aspect of Lawson State Community College. 

The college implemented Tegrity in 2005. With 60 percent of the Birmingham, AL, college’s students holding down full- or part-time work, the school hoped to increase engagement, improve its retention level and help working students with attendance issues, notes Academic Dean Sherri Davis. 

The oft-noted statistics are grim: only about half of college students complete any degree or certificate within six years, according to the Information Center for Higher Education Policy Making and Analysis. In the fall of 2010, public policy firm HCM Strategists and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation launched a series of conversations for institutional leaders dedicated to increasing success for students traditionally underrepresented in higher education. HCM staff also conducted interviews with 30 campus leaders.

The success of online education giant University of Phoenix has inspired a host of web-based higher learning and career training institutions. And while this increase is indicative of a growing demand for remote learning options, it also makes delivering the right student to the right school more challenging. Generating leads for the sake of generating leads is an inefficient customer acquisition strategy.

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