Starting a retention program takes a commitment from senior management. Without the approval and active participation of senior management efforts may not succeed. A broad based all inclusive college community committee needs to be established with a credible person as the chair. Since faculty play such an important role in a college it would be appropriate for a respected senior faculty member to chair the committee. Senior management must also be included as well as clients, i.e. students.
Once the committee is formed a retention reading list should be developed and books and articles put on reserve in the learning resource center. This gives committee members and members of the college community a common understanding of this complicated topic. Non committee members should be encouraged to also take advantage of the readings. Having a retention expert provide a reading list, come to campus and give a presentation and/or workshop can be helpful to set the tone for the committee's work.
Also always keep in mind that the college mission statement is the guiding principles for the educational processes, programs and services of the college. In other words, why the college exists and how it will serve its students.
Key committee questions that follow are:
These initial questions may seem simple, but they are not. Simply stating that the problem is to keep students through graduation may not be sufficient.
Defining retention may also be a challenge since students enter, leave, take different numbers of courses a term etc. Do you include part-time, adult, distance learning students in your definitions? Over how long a time period?
How do you compare with your peers? Do you know who your peers are? Do they define retention/attrition similarly to the way you do?
After your comparison with your peers how do you stack up. Are you satisfied with your results and/or do you feel you can do better? Are they consistent with the college mission statement?
Once these questions are answered and you continue on to improve retention you will need to:
Now you are ready to move on to Implement a Retention Program.