Hardwiring Student Success

Building Disciplines for Retention and Timely Graduation

Topics: First Year Experience, Student Retention and Success, Early Warning Systems, Advising, Academic Affairs, Faculty Affairs, Student Information Systems, Information Technology, Student Experience, Student Affairs, Degree Progress

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By reading this study, members will learn how to:

  • Establish institution-wide ownership for retention
  • Develop a comprehensive early warning network to quickly identify signs of distress
  • Hardwire rapid follow-up with those students flagged as at risk
  • Set new students on a clear path to timely degree completion
  • Intervene with off-course juniors and seniors to avoid graduation roadblocks

Executive Summary

Despite massive institutional investment in advising and support services, national student retention and graduation rates have remained lackluster for decades. The combination of increased pressure from state governments and heightened financial concerns generated by the economic climate have suddenly brought this issue to the forefront of higher education agenda, leaving many schools wondering what more they can do to improve.

Retention exemplars share the insight that significant improvement is possible without adding more support resources. For many, the problem isn’t under-resourced services but over-reliance on students and faculty initiative to utilize them. At the majority of institutions, students receiving help are those self-aware and tenacious enough to ask for it, rather than those who need it most.

This study profiles innovators’ efforts to elevate student success initiatives from the current patchwork of support services to an actively managed enterprise process that is designed to systematically identify and rapidly intervene with students exhibiting behaviors predictive of attrition or graduation delays. Based on nearly two years of work and hundreds of interviews with colleges and universities across the country, the report presents 16 best practices in the areas most critical to improving student persistence and graduation:

  • Establishing institution-wide ownership for retention
  • Developing a comprehensive early warning network to quickly identify signs of distress
  • Hardwiring rapid follow-up with those students flagged as at risk
  • Setting new students on a clear path to timely degree completion
  • Intervening with off-course juniors and seniors to avoid graduation roadblocks

The study also includes:

  • Diagnostic questions to help leaders determine which practices offer the greatest opportunity for quick improvement at their institution
  • Tools to support practice implementation

Leaders in academic affairs, enrollment management, student affairs, and advising who are responsible for or involved in improving student retention and graduation rates on their campuses will find the practices and tools in this publication useful in their work.

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