To increase retention rates, colleges must look beyond enrollment to identify the roadblocks to student success, one administrator argues.
The EvoLLLution spoke with Anton Reece, associate vice provost and director of the Student Success Center at the University of Tennessee (UT), about ways that colleges can break down barriers for students on the path to completion.
Empower students to help themselves
First-year college students often do not understand how different it is to achieve academic success in higher education. A star student in high school may get disheartened if they don't immediately feel like a star student in college.
Reese says the first step to supporting students is teaching them how to help themselves. The three major things he says students must learn are to self-assess their college readiness, master effective study strategies and time management, and seek help early and often.
Connect the student experience to retention
According to Reece, UT's flagship campus operates under the assumption that "all students are at risk until they graduate, and will face some challenges in the college transition." That's why the university has invested so heavily in its summer orientation program, which emphasizes advising, academic coaching, and student life and academic support resources. UT also encourages students to take advantage of opportunities such as study abroad, internships, and service learning.
In addition, UT has put a greater focus on the needs of its first-generation, low-income, and diverse populations with initiatives such as a math camp and summer bridge programs.
Developing summer bridge programs
"These resources reflect and reiterate our commitment to students and parents, and making them aware of our academic and social support resources throughout the academic year," Reece says.
Create a network of support
Technology helps bring together everyone responsible for helping students graduate: faculty, staff, and the students themselves. At UT, advisors and coaches use GradesFirst's electronic database to access students' academic plans and early warnings about students' performance. Similarly, the uTrack program monitors course progress and milestones within students' majors. In the classroom, instructors use tools including smart boards and interactive software to keep students engaged and up to date (The EvoLLLution, 6/29).
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