4 student retention myths to overcome at the undergraduate level

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This article features excerpts from a popular Noel-Levitz white paper originally released in 2000, The Earth-Shaking But Quiet Revolution in Retention Management, by Randi Levitz and Lee Noel, founders of Noel-Levitz. Download the original white paper here or read additional excerpts online.

MYTH: Students bring a cogent map of college success to campus

The real reason students do not succeed or stay at many institutions goes even beyond the lack of a cogent map; it is the fact that they have expectations for themselves in and after college that they do not know how to activate. Many of these expectations are really at the most basal level of integration into campus life. For example, students may not even know how to meet their expectations for social life. On campuses nationwide students complain, “There’s nothing to do here.”

A large research university actually counted the number of activities on its campus in one month. The total, 1,072, was staggering, yet students said there was nothing to do. What does that say? Probably that students don’t know how to participate. Many residence hall students don’t know how to join a campus group, whether before, after, or even during dinner. Similarly, commuter students don’t know how to get involved, even when their work/home schedule permits them to do so.

At the root of these “non-connects” is the fact that we have vastly overrated students’ abilities in these key areas:

  • Learning the norms of the campus culture
  • Finding a niche
  • Reaching out and then putting down roots
  • Transferring success behaviors from other settings
  • Putting on blinders/developing focus on the task at hand
  • Resisting peer pressures
  • Compartmentalizing family or work pressures
  • Exhibiting the classroom and study habits of successful students
  • Building relationships with teachers
  • Asking for help

Because students cannot articulate their needs, they are unable to seek help to address these needs unless the institution intervenes. Contrary to popular belief, students don’t bring a map of their future to campus—they need help building a plan a step at a time. We need to recognize that even good students need this kind of help and guidance.

MYTH: Academic preparedness equates to persistence

MYTH: Academic preparedness equates to persistence

We need to dispel the myth that dropouts are “flunkouts.” On nearly every campus in North America, this is the prevailing myth. The fact is, many dropouts are outstanding students. Many institutions have hard data to document this. One campus for example, found that 28 percent of the students in its top quartile for high school GPA and ACT/SAT scores were not enrolled at that institution one year later. This came as a shock to everyone on campus, from the president on down. This discovery has recurred on scores of campuses. A national study conducted several years ago revealed that 37 percent of the students who did not return for the second year at their initial institution had earned freshman year college GPAs of 2.50 or greater. (It is important to note that many institution-specific studies have supported the fact that college GPAs are generally .5 to 1.0 units lower than students’ high school GPAs.)
Continue reading “4 student retention myths to overcome at the undergraduate level” »

Take an Enrollment Stability Quiz – How well prepared is your institution for the future?

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Enrollment Stability QuizAt Noel-Levitz’s national conference in early July, participants were actively engaged in discussions about emerging trends that are influencing student enrollments at their institutions. On some campuses, these trends are already aggravating the usual ups and downs of enrollment. I had a number of conversations with campus leaders who were trying to decide if the appropriate response is a more systematic approach to planning, such as the strategic enrollment planning approach we advocate.

Given the prevalence of these concerns, I put together the following Enrollment Stability Quiz to help readers assess how well prepared they are for the trends sweeping across higher education, and to test their readiness for Noel-Levitz’s strategic enrollment planning process. Use these 11 questions to see if your campus is ready for these powerful changes.

Circle yes or no to the following:

Yes  No - We include environmental scanning results when we build our annual enrollment goals for both new student and continuing student enrollment.

Yes  No - My institution knows how shifting demographics in our primary, secondary, and tertiary markets will influence its enrollment numbers over the next five to ten years.

Yes  No - My institution has a written plan to respond to changing demographics in our primary, secondary, and tertiary markets.
Continue reading “Take an Enrollment Stability Quiz – How well prepared is your institution for the future?” »

The top enrollment management blog posts in the first half of 2014

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Subscribe today to receive enrollment management advice, strategies, and info from our experts.Our Noel-Levitz consultants have written blogs on a wide variety of enrollment management and student success topics in 2014 so far.  Here are the eight most-read posts in case you missed them.

We will return with new posts soon. Be sure to sign up for Strategies e-newsletter, which includes the latest posts from the blog.

 

Increasing yield rates by getting accepted college students to confirm their enrollment

How can colleges and universities move accepted students toward enrolling? Consultant Brian Jansen offers nine strategies for connecting with accepted students and encouraging their enrollment.

 

Five strategies for improving student retention and college completion among second-year college students

With the increased focus on improving college completion rates, we look at how to “broaden the lens” to extend first-year interventions into the second year as well.

 

Projections of high school graduates by state and race/ethnicity for strategic enrollment planning

A special report from Noel-Levitz compiles pertinent projections over the next five and ten years that may influence enrollments for colleges and universities that primarily serve traditional-age undergraduates.
Continue reading “The top enrollment management blog posts in the first half of 2014” »

Ten strategies for strengthening community college enrollment and student success

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For many two-year colleges, the era of “if you build it, they will come” is over. Community and technical colleges need to be as strategic and planning oriented as the four-year sector in attracting and retaining students. Nationally, enrollments at two-year public colleges have declined consistently on many campuses in recent years. At the same time, funding for two-year public institutions is becoming more tuition-driven and tied to student retention and completion. These and other trends have put historic pressure on community, junior, and technical colleges, requiring them to become more proactive and strategic in their recruitment and retention practices.

In light of this situation, many of the recruitment strategies and initiatives that have been common practice for four-year institutions are now being recognized as central to successful new student enrollment programs in the two-year sector. When applied, two-year institutions can expect not only increased enrollment, but also more efficient and effective enrollment operations, with special attention to filling under-enrolled and technical-oriented programs. In particular, the following ten recommendations are among those that have helped many two-year colleges begin to adapt to the new enrollment realities they face.

1) Invest in becoming a data-informed institution

If there is one element that separates the enrollment haves from the have-nots in higher education, it is the use of enrollment data for decision making. While many four-year institutions have become more proficient in using data for planning, there are many two-year institutions that are “data poor” or that lack a comprehensive, strategic approach to gathering and using data.

Make data gathering a priority at each stage of the enrollment process, including monitoring key indicators, along with a process for interpreting the data to make informed enrollment management decisions. It’s beyond the scope of this post to dive into all the types of data you should collect, or how to collect them, but email me if you would like to discuss recommendations.

2) Set enrollment goals that are based on reality

“Goal setting” is a phrase that is misunderstood and misapplied at many campuses. Institutions often set goals based on budgetary and revenue needs without grounding those goals in solid data analysis. This can lead to goals being too lofty—what the campus hopes will happen, with no regard to the likelihood of the outcome—or goals that are too low, which may be too easily achieved and not push the campus to achieve its full potential.

Set realistic, measurable enrollment and revenue goals based on expanded market research regarding program demand needs (see item five below) and the price sensitivity of your target audience. Also, set goals for new and returning students for one year, three years, and five years ahead.
Continue reading “Ten strategies for strengthening community college enrollment and student success” »

Graduation rates and student satisfaction

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At next month’s Noel-Levitz National Conference on Student Recruitment, Marketing and Retention Conference in Chicago, my colleague Scott Bodfish and I will be presenting the session, “Do Lower Prices Increase Student Satisfaction?”  To answer this question, we looked at national data from the Student Satisfaction Inventory™ within the context of IPEDS data variables. We grouped schools into three categories based on these variables for “Low” (bottom 25 percent), “Medium” (middle 50 percent), and “High” (top 25 percent).  In addition to looking at tuition levels, we also looked at graduation rates and enrollment size to observe differences in satisfaction with these indicators.

As expected, we do observe higher satisfaction scores at institutions with higher graduation rates:

As expected, we do observe higher satisfaction scores at institutions with higher graduation rates

While four-year public institutions peak in satisfaction at medium graduation rates, four-year privates, community colleges and career schools all reflect higher satisfaction scores as graduation rates increase. This reinforces the idea that satisfaction and retention are linked.

So do lower prices increase student satisfaction? Join us in Chicago July 8-10 to learn the answer to that question!

Does student retention require a culture shift on your campus? Second part of a two-part article

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This is the second part of a two-part article featuring excerpts from a popular Noel-Levitz white paper originally released in 2000, The Earth-Shaking But Quiet Revolution in Retention Management, by Randi Levitz and Lee Noel, founders of Noel-Levitz. Read the first part of the article here or download the original white paper.

Does student retention require a culture shift on your campus? Second part of a two-part article

Institutions must deliberately establish a plan to increase student retention.

Those of us who have been working in this field of student retention almost from the very beginning have learned a great deal. The main thing we have learned is that institutions must deliberately establish a plan to increase student retention. Retention does not just happen. Retention is something we can control. We have learned that this control comes when we put students squarely at the center of a campus. That is what it is all about today at the undergraduate level—thinking about students, understanding students, listening to students, figuring out who is in the classrooms, who is on the campuses. If an institution has residence halls, it needs to ask who is living in those residence halls. We need to move with students, learn with students, understand them and help them succeed. Institutions that put this kind of personal effort into effect can, in fact, experience a tremendous degree of student and institutional success. Retention improvement proceeds on two planes simultaneously—campuswide for all students and directly with individual students.

This necessarily requires a greater emphasis on assessment. Assessment helps us predict dropout-proneness before the student drops out, academic difficulty before it occurs, and educational stress before the student experiences it. It also helps us determine an incoming student’s receptivity to institutional help so we can leverage our time by intervening intensively with students who are likely to respond.

This approach is perhaps best termed “progressive responsibility.” It does not encourage everyone on campus to “hold students’ hands forever,” which is often the faculty’s greatest fear. However, it does advocate additional support to help students get off to a strong start. What it tries to do is provide “stepping stone” approaches so students get the support they need when they enter, thus securing a solid foundation from which to progress to greater degrees of responsibility and independence until they are able to stand independently.
Continue reading “Does student retention require a culture shift on your campus? Second part of a two-part article” »

Does student retention require a culture shift on your campus? First of a two-part article

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This is the first part of a two-part article featuring excerpts from a popular Noel-Levitz white paper originally released in 2000, The Earth-Shaking But Quiet Revolution in Retention Management, by Randi Levitz and Lee Noel, founders of Noel-Levitz.  Read the second part of the article here or download the original white paper.

“The success of an institution and the success of its students are inseparable.” If you take this credo seriously, you commit your institution—and every individual in it, from the president to faculty members to support staff—to a path of radical and permanent change.

Why embark on such a course? As budgets tighten, as pools of potential students shrink, as competition for resources of all kinds increase, as regents, legislators, taxpayers, and prospective students and their families take up the cry for institutional accountability, colleges and universities that put students first will thrive just as their students will.

If this sounds daunting, don’t be misled. For nearly every institution, substantial gains in retention are possible if managed properly. On the other hand, improvement in retention does not happen without careful thought and considerable energy. Successful retention management involves “distance philosophy” which assumes that the main purpose of education and, therefore, the main business of the institution, is to change people’s lives. When administrators, faculty, and staff fully appreciate the need to retain students, it will show in their attitude toward students. Students will no longer be impositions on our work. Students will be the purpose of our work.

As a result, daily interactions will be less mechanical. Relationships between students and faculty, staff and administrators, will develop naturally. And this camaraderie among members of the campus community will demonstrate itself through loyalty to the institution. When students learn and feel successful on campus, they stay.

In contrast, whereas moderately dissatisfied students may remain on campus, these students certainly will not recommend that their acquaintances attend the same institution. This can have a far-reaching impact on enrollments since most institutions recruit new students from the same high schools, neighborhoods, and work places each year. What’s more, if students become substantially dissatisfied, they’ll simply leave the institution to explore “greener pastures.”

On the other hand, the student who is experiencing the right combination of support and independence at college will appear more personally developed and will feel more satisfied. This noticeable growth, in and of itself, will be a statement about the institution’s quality of programs and services. The student’s excitement about these aspects as he or she discusses them with friends and family are an added bonus. The extent to which current students leave campus feeling satisfied and excited about what they have experienced on campus helps determine the ease with which the institution is able to recruit in those areas in subsequent visits and subsequent years.

Those of us who have been working in this field almost from the very beginning have learned a great deal. The main thing we have learned is that institutions must deliberately establish a plan to increase student retention. Retention does not just happen. Retention is something we can control.

Read the second part of this two-part article, or download the original white paper here.

For more information and insights
Come to Chicago, July 8-10, 2014, for the Noel-Levitz National Conference on Student Recruitment, Marketing, and Retention, where you can choose from presentations such as:

  • Mentoring and Mentoring Programs: Powerful Tools for Engaging and Retaining Students
  • From Swirl to Success: How to Make Your College the Final Destination for Transfer Students
  • Enhancing Student Success by Identifying and Re-Recruiting Stopouts, Dropouts, and Re-admits
  • Adult Undergraduates in 2014 and Beyond: Profiles, Priorities, and Paths to Persistence and Success That Guide Their Decision-Making Processes
  • The Academic Success Program: A New Intervention Model That Doubles the Retention Rate of Students on Academic Probation

See the conference agenda and register.

Top strategies for college transfer student recruitment

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Co-written with Todd White of Noel-Levitz

While some institutions have met their new student enrollment goals as of May 1, most face the challenge of summer recruitment, and transfer students are a big part of this mix. College transfer students are increasingly important in meeting institutional enrollment and revenue goals. However, in a time of nationally declining community college enrollments—along with other demographic changes such as diversity, access, and affordability—colleges and universities face an increasingly daunting task in the recruitment of transfer students. In our work to help colleges meet the needs of students and their enrollment goals, we advise taking an individual approach to recruiting transfer students. In an earlier post from Gary Fretwell, “A 10-point checklist for recruiting college transfer students,” he asks, “Do you have dedicated admissions staff who are trained to respond to transfer student issues?” This is critical to college transfer student recruitment, because each individual transfer student comes to your institution with a broad array of experiences and characteristics. Your staff first has to understand the nature of transfer students and how they differ from traditional undergraduates.

College transfer student characteristics

Top strategies for college transfer student recruitmentTransfer students come to your institution with a frame of reference, their previous college experience, which can encompass a variety of experiences. They may be transferring following two successful years at a community college, looking for a fresh start after a poor experience at their first institution, or returning to college after stopping out for any variety of reasons. They also tend to be more focused, having previously selected a major or program of study, and have an idea of the career they want to enter. They often have career, family, financial, and other obligations that can compete with their educational plans. Transfer students may have other characteristics that create enrollment challenges for a campus, such as:

  • More likely to be nontraditional students, first-generation students, working students, and students with high financial need;
  • Experiencing transition issues (i.e., “transfer shock”);
  • Lower levels of student engagement than traditional first-year students;
  • Greater need for developmental coursework early in their academic career; and
  • Veterans returning to civilian life.

Furthermore, the uncertain economic climate and ability to pay for college may have driven additional students to two-year colleges, resulting in a greater need for transfer recruitment. Continue reading “Top strategies for college transfer student recruitment” »

What is the top concern of prospective international college students? New report ranks students’ priorities

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International student enrollment has jumped over 30 percent over five years according to the Institute of International Education, with international undergraduate enrollment in particular rising significantly during that period.  As more international college students come to the United States to study—and as more American colleges and universities look abroad to enroll students—what concerns do international students have about enrolling here?

According to Noel-Levitz’s latest joint report with CollegeWeekLive, Meeting the Expectations of International Undergraduate and Graduate Students, the biggest issue is money. That’s what more than 2,500 prospective international college students told us when we polled them earlier this year:

What are international students’ concerns about studying abroad?

 

What are students concerns about studying abroad?

Click image to enlarge.

For the second straight year, funding has dominated the concerns of international students, as these 2014 results were very similar to a 2013 study we did which only polled prospective undergraduate students. As you can see, when we looked at prospective graduate students along with undergraduates in this year’s study, both groups listed funding as their top concern by a wide margin.

This may be surprising to some enrollment managers, because I think there is an assumption that many international students have funding from their home countries or are well off enough that they will be able to afford full tuition at American institutions. As the next finding shows, however, many expect to receive U.S. scholarships and aid to finance their educations at American institutions.
Continue reading “What is the top concern of prospective international college students? New report ranks students’ priorities” »

What do freshmen want at the middle of their first year? New report provides clues

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Anyone who is working to address the needs of today’s college freshmen will be interested in the findings from the 2014 Report: Changes in Freshman Attitudes Following a Semester of Classes and Interventions.

Below are the top five areas in which the freshmen requested assistance as they completed their first semester, among 24 areas examined, with the proportion of students in agreement:

Top five areas in which the freshmen requested assistance

Click table to enlarge.

Across sectors, support for career decision making was the most frequently named request freshmen made at the midpoint of their first year. This table also shows more than half of the freshmen from two-year institutions wanted help with improving their skills in math and writing. For context, the other 19 requests for student services (not shown) included personal counseling of various types, financial guidance of various types, academic needs such as individual tutoring or help with improving study habits, and help with getting involved in social activities.

The findings shown above are likely conservative for higher education as a whole—i.e., the percentages shown may actually be higher—since the 10,000 freshman respondents on which the report is based benefited from substantial first-semester interventions that were aimed at meeting these same requests, along with other needs.

Download the new report for all the details. You may also be interested in last month’s report on incoming freshmen, the 2014 National Freshman Attitudes Report, and the assessments on which these reports are based, the Mid-Year Student Assessment and the College Student Inventory.

Do you work with freshmen and have interest in using assessments to guide your interventions? Please contact me at 1-800-876-1117 or email me for more information. I will be happy to assist you.

2014 Report: Changes in Freshman Attitudes Following a Semester of Classes and Interventions

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