November 24, 2020

How to Improve Student Retention

GoGuardian Team
Students wearing graduation caps and gowns face away from the camera

Educational institutions must help all students graduate from their schools with the knowledge to succeed in the real world. The role of an educator is to teach students the required curriculum. According to the U.S. News Best High Schools rankings, the average student retention rate is increasing. During the 2017-2018 academic year, it ranged from 74-94 percent, and the graduation rate was up 88 percent. This data indicates how well schools are serving their students. However, when it comes to higher education, retention rates drop significantly. That same year, full-time undergraduate students who were enrolled in universities had a retention rate of 81 percent, and public institutions with an open admissions policy were 63 percent. Educators must utilize their influence and innovate new strategies to improve student retention rates.

What Is Student Retention?

Student retention is the year-over-year rate at which students remain enrolled in school. This is an important metric for faculty, stakeholders, and parents because it measures a school’s performance. A 2014 study uncovered that parents sent their children to charter schools in Chicago and Florida because those students had a higher percentage (7­­–11 percent) of graduating as opposed to district-run schools. Graduates of charter schools were 10 percent and 11 percent more likely to enroll in college.

Why Is Student Retention Important?

Student retention benefits faculty, students, and the school districts. This stability allows more funding for schools to grow.

Increase Government Funding

The government uses student retention and other performance-based metrics to determine how much funding to grant schools. Over 75 percent of states utilize a performance-based funding program to determine the allotment. Increased student dropout rates can signify problematic issues within schools.

Reduce Costs and Improve Income Potential

Schools need to invest their time and energy in retaining their current students. It is easier and less expensive to retain a student than to recruit a new one. According to an article in Higher Ed Special Edition, improving 1 percent of a school’s retention rate saves 1.4 million dollars annually. Moreover, a graduate of high school earns higher salaries, which assists their income and helps the economy. In 2012, it was reported that a high school dropout earns $20,241 per year, which is less than $10,386 per year than a high school graduate and less than $36,424 per year than a graduate of a bachelor’s degree.

What Causes Poor Student Retention?

It’s vital to understand why students drop out of school. A 2007 study performed by Oakton Community College found that only 20-30 percent of students leave their schools due to academic struggles. About 70-80 percent of students leave due to the following factors:

Costs: The cost of higher education has drastically increased over the years. Students who cannot receive financial aid or help from their families struggle to take the financial burden of paying for school.

Social Challenges: Students may struggle to ingratiate themselves with a social group or make friends and then choose to leave school.

Isolation: Students might feel disconnected from their schoolwork and do not reach out to teachers or faculty for help. This makes them feel isolated, and they want to leave as a result.

Unclear Expectations: Unfortunately, schools do not always prepare students for every field. Students may feel like higher education is unclear and that a degree will not be beneficial to them.

Student Retention Strategies

These issues are highly common, and schools should create innovative programs to help students gain interest, which boosts retention rates. There are three key ways that schools can work to improve student retention: increasing awareness of financial aid programs, developing intervention programs, and increasing academic advising resources.

Increase Awareness to Financial Aid Programs

One of the biggest drivers for students dropping out of college is the lack of financial resources to pay for tuition. With student debt reaching over $1.54 trillion, many families cannot afford to make the sacrifices to provide their children with higher education. Schools need to bring awareness about financial aid programs and teach students about how to register for them. The government created the Free Application for Federal Student Financial Aid (FAFSA®) to help students with tuition. Today, there are over 3.7 million college scholarships and grants available. Many target specific students and their needs, such as immigrants, low-income families, native speakers, and more. The financial aid office and counselors should actively send emails and host presentations to inform students on how to acquire these financial aid opportunities.

Develop Intervention Programs

A preventative strategy is to help at-risk students before they drop out by creating intervention programs. Schools can establish an anonymous referral program that alerts them when students are experiencing personal, academic, social, or financial problems. These students will receive a letter from their school about available resources, such as workshops to address their issues. This allows the school to act early before it is too late.

Increase Academic Advising Resources

Providing access to academic advising is an important factor in a student’s success and retention. Students who feel a deep connection to a school understand their purpose, feel cared for, and identify career and academic goals, which means they are more likely to pursue success in their academic endeavors. Academic advisors have a role in serving students in academic planning, problem resolution, areas of engagement, and decision-making. Advisors may use a strategy called proactive advising, intervening with students and providing resources to prevent problems. To reach these individuals, send targeted emails to reinforce policies or address common problems. Another way to engage students is to incorporate mandatory advising for all first-year students. This helps students who may not seek advice by initiating a relationship with an advisor.

Boost Your Success

There are multiple reasons, personal or financial, as to why students drop out of school. Creating intervention programs, making financial aid readily accessible, providing mandatory academic advising, and encouraging tutoring are some ways to help students feel supported at their school. By being proactive and instituting strategies, schools can increase student retention and save money.

For additional information and resources that could be helpful to educators, parents, and students, visit GoGuardian’s blog.