How Data Can Personalize Your College's Student Retention Efforts
With data collected in various systems and departments across campus, colleges can learn alot about structuring and personalizing their retention efforts.
Data can provide a wealth of information about how to retain all types of students. In order to gain clear insights from this data, you have to first ask questions aligned with your institution’s retention goals. A recent article featured in Enrollment Management Report outlined several of the top questions college and university administrators should ask when they review their data in order to make more informed decisions about their retention efforts:
- When do students leave and what can that tell us about how to structure our retention efforts? Determining precisely when students leave and on what terms can help your institution create more targeted retention strategies.
For example, your data may show that the number of students who leave during or after their second semester is greater than all other semesters, and their average GPA is higher than students who leave at other times. This likely means that students who leave early in their academic career are more financially and academically mobile, and your school was not their first choice. With this information, you can now create retention strategies tailored to this group, such as targeting honors students to increase engagement.
- Have we recently assessed our academic support landscape? It’s important to understand how students are using your institution’s academic support services, which often consist of several different offices. Are they satisfied with their experiences? How often did students seek support? What types of students were most likely to use the services? What affect did the services have on students?
Obtaining answers to these questions can help you determine whether your institution needs to restructure and provide more resourcing to its academic support services, which can have a significant impact on student satisfaction and retention.
- What support options are in place to assist struggling students and how effective are they? It is important to have several levels of support to identify, monitor, and provide outreach to students who have been identified as presenting risk factors.
It is also important to recognize that a one-size-fits-all approach isn’t always most effective, as, for example, first-year and upper-class students on academic probation may be struggling for very different reasons. Asking the above question while reviewing your data can help you determine where to make targeted changes.
- How are we monitoring and connecting with students who demonstrate no at‐risk behavior? It may seem that if a student is performing well academically, then there’s little need to focus resources on retaining them. However, this assumption can be detrimental to your school’s retention rates.
Lagging academic performance is not the only indicator that a student may be at risk of leaving. There are other indicators you can look for in your data. For example, transcript requests are one indication that students are thinking of going elsewhere. By keeping an eye on this group of students, your institution can work to identify and solve the academic, social, or financial challenges they’re facing to keep them enrolled and engaged.
- Do we have an effective exit interview process? If not, your institution could be missing out on crucial information for making key improvements. Students don't fear repercussions when they are leaving, so staff can gather more accurate data around where dissatisfaction areas lie from interviewing them.
The questions above provide preliminary guidelines on how to use your data to effectively inform your institution’s retention efforts. To see more questions you should consider as you review your data, read the full article from Enrollment Management Report here.
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