Student Retention

Why is student retention important to teachers?

Looking at the student retention percentage is important for college students looking at colleges, says College Admissions Counseling.

In this time of economic uncertainty, it can also tell you which schools are more likely to be stable. (Just a thought.)

According to ACT.org:

A total of 66 percent of first-year college students returned to the same institution for their second year of college in the 2007–2008 academic year, the lowest percentage since 1989. This figure is down from 68 percent in 2006–2007 and 69 percent in 2005–2006.

But that is NOT true for two-year colleges.

The exception to the current downward trend is two year public colleges, with retention rates actually rising at these schools: Fifty-four percent of students at two-year public colleges returned for their second year in 2007–2008, up from 51 percent the previous year. In fact, the current retention rate for two-year public institutions is at an all-time high.

I find the 54% retention rate problematic, of course. I teach at community colleges and that means one in two students don’t come back the next year. Certainly some of those are transferring, but my guess is most of them are dropping out.

According to How To Do Things.com, community colleges can increase retention by:

  • increasing faculty-student interaction
  • establishing learning communities
  • learning support programs
  • assessment programs

My college has assessment programs and learning support programs. We are attempting to do more about establishing learning communities and I am participating in this by creating a freshman English course for health science professionals. Doing that will give the entire class a learning cohort that they know. In addition, it will give them students who are also interested in doing well in the class, since nursing students need an A.

I personally am trying to increase faculty-student interaction by replying to my students’ blogs and being available for one-on-one tutoring if they need it. Obviously as an adjunct I don’t have office hours, so that is a little problematic, but it can be done.

Even though the article is about community colleges, I think it probably applies to all colleges.

Schools where more students stick around for the second year ought to be more stable in an economic downturn. It might be worth looking at that if you are looking for work and aren’t geographically restricted, as I am.

What are the most common reasons for dropping out of school?

According to “Student Retention in Higher Education”, homesickness or wrong major, financial issues, bored with the course, and failing assessments are the reasons students drop out.

How can we help our students stay in college?

Obviously as English composition teachers, we may see the homesickness in the papers the students are writing. I ask my students to interview people in their field to let the students see what the job actually looks like and hopefully help them determine early on if they are in the right major.

Financial issues are not within our purview but those may increase with the economic downturn.

Being bored with classes is an issue the students need to address themselves, but as teachers we can help by making our courses more interesting.

Finally, failing assessments can also be worked with by the teachers. If we give writing assignments early and often, and return them just as quickly, the students will see their grades all along the way and know whether or not they need to make a stronger push or whether what they are doing is acceptable. That is something that English teachers tend to be fairly good at.

So, as we look at institutions’ retention numbers, it might also be helpful to look at how we can help increase our particular college’s retention.

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