Retention Resources for Individuals & Educational Institutions

Learning About College Student Retention

Your Retention Committee has spent the first part of its time learning about college student retention through readings and perhaps having a college-wide retention presentation and/or workshop to set the stage. Then the Committee explored the key question as outlined on the page starting a retention program.

Perhaps the key committee questions were answered:

  • What is the problem you are trying to solve? Improve the retention rate of all first-time full-time students from the first to second year by 2% for the next three years for a total of 6% more students retained from the first to second year.
  • [Two additional retention sub-committees will be established (chaired by a member of the retention committee) to look at second to third year retention and the other retention sub-committee will look at 4, 5, & 6 year graduation rates. Each sub-committee will use similar modes of inquiry as used for first to second year retention. In addition, a third or more sub-committees could be established to explore other aspects of student retention such as adult and distance education retention etc.]
  • How do you define retention/attrition? (see Retention Definitions) The retention definition would be established for this group of students to be studied.
  • How do you compare with our peers? Retention rates are similar to our peers.
  • Are you satisfied with your results? Although the college has similar retention rates as its peers, the college wants to improve its first to second year retention rates.

Now that the questions above have been answered, the committee needs to move on to the implementation stage; what you intend to do and how you intend to do it.

  • Choose a theory to support your interventions. Through the committee and college community reading of the literature, a consensuses may be reached to use one or more retention theories to support your interventions. They may be the Tinto retention theory, Astin's student involvement, person environment theory, etc.
  • Choose a model for your interventions. The Seidman retention formula is an example of a model for your interventions. See slides 26-35 in the Retention Slide Show. Decide what you plan to do. An example using the Seidman retention for formula is the concept of early identification and early intervention of a student in need of assistance prior to enrollment.
  • [Obviously there are other parts of a plan that would be identified and the assigning of responsibility for carrying out each plan, designing a program evaluation, and reporting results and modifying the plan where necessary.]
  • Assign responsibility. Assign responsibility to a person, persons or office(s) that will be responsible for developing/suggesting appropriate identification strategies and instruments prior to student enrollment. Once a student is identified, what strategies will be use to remediate the deficiency? Who will design the intervention and who will carry it out?
  • Design an evaluation plan. Identify the person or office that will design and implement an evaluation plan to ascertain the effectiveness of the identification and implementation process. Who will collect and analyze the data and report the results?
  • Keep the college community informed (see Publicizing Campus Retention Efforts)
  • Modify where necessary after an evaluation period. After analyzing the results, what conclusions has the retention committee reached? Should the plan be continued, modified or discontinued? What other components should be added (remember the other sub-committees)? Has the college accomplished its retention goals? If so, do you want to continue to see if additional progress can be made?
  • Be proud of your accomplishments. Publicize your results, not only to the campus community but by presentations at local, state and national conferences and through publications in scholarly journals. Improving college student retention is no easy task. The data indicates that over the past twenty years rates have not changed. So, once you accomplish your goals advertise it widely. Your college deserves the accolades when they serve as a national model for improving college student retention rates and can share how it was accomplished.