“I’ve been tasked with creating a First Year Experience (College Success) program on my campus. What do you recommend for our campus?”
It’s a common question I am asked every year at various college success conferences I attend. And this past conference season did not disappoint. In fact, I was probably asked this question more this year than in the past. Which was interesting.
So how do I answer the question? With questions of course. Including:
- What do you want the program to accomplish?
- What are your goals, the mission and purpose of the program?
Surprisingly, most people don’t have answers to these questions. If I do get a response, its often “to increase retention rates?” Of course, I then stump them with another question. “So why are your retention rates low?”
The reason I bring all of this up is because retention rates are not increasing. In fact, they have been fairly consistent for numerous years. And that rate isn’t great. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, the completion rate for four-year institutions is about 59%. Yikes! Correct me if I’m wrong, but if I got a 59% on an exam, I believe I’d get an F for a grade.
So what is the problem? Honestly, schools are failing to understand their audience and what they need. Instead, they go to these industry conferences and see what other high-profile institutions are doing, make a copy of it, and implement it on their campus. They, in effect, are looking for the easy answer – the silver bullet. What they fail to realize, in most cases, is that the answer to better retention rates is really getting back to the fundamentals…the core.
Students are struggling with cognitive, interpersonal and intrapersonal skill sets. Things like problem solving, study skills, communication, teamwork, diversity, time management, organization, etc. They also don’t often have a strong understanding of the campus resources available to assist them, such as writing labs, tutoring centers, advising, and library resources.
For some reason higher education has shifted away from the fundamentals and instead moved toward a common read theme. And if you have attended a college success conference recently and stepped into the exhibit hall, you realize very quickly who is benefiting HUGELY from this shift to common read programs.
Kirrin Coleman, author of the Life During College Success Series, and I will be hosting a free webinar where we will discuss the retention rate challenge, but also:
- Why college success programming is so important
- Recommended best practices for serving students
- Strategies for faculty, staff and advisers to encourage, support and retain first-year students
- Resources you can use to develop and enhance your program
- As well as address attendee questions
Regardless of your role on campus, retention of your student population should be a critical issue for you. I encourage you to take advantage of this webinar and be an active participant. Register Now! Space is limited to 100 attendees. And be sure to Sign-Up for Our Newsletter so we can update you on future upcoming events and resources.