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

Rising Expectations in an Era of Receding Resources

Retention and Student Success Suddently in the Spotlight

After years of leaving higher education virtually unaccountable, federal and state governments are taking an increased interest in college degree attainment. The rate of bachelor degree attainment among Americans aged 25 to 34 has remained effectively unchanged for decades. Meanwhile, the rest of the industrialized world has caught up to, and even surpassed, the United States. In an era of globalization and knowledge-based economies, the United States could be facing an increasing disadvantage.

America's Competitive Edge

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Federal Focus on Success, Not Just Access

The Obama administration is committing unprecedented federal funding to regain America’s standing as the world leader in college attainment by 2020. Some gains will be made through expanded access to non-traditional populations and increased enrollment of adult learners; however, the majority of this shortfall will need to be met by improving the completion rates of those already enrolled. Community colleges will play an important role in meeting this goal by aiming to produce an additional five million graduates in the next decade.

Federal Focus on Success, Not Just Access

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Some States Beginning to Experiment with "Pay for Performance"

State governments increasingly are building retention and graduation rates into their funding models. A growing number of states offer meaningful financial incentives for improvement in persistence and completion. Some are now including measures of institutional performance in their standard allocation formulas. Trends suggest that other states may soon follow. Public universities that anticipate this paradigm shift and act accordingly should benefit financially.

Some States Beginning to Experiment with "Pay for Performance"

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A Revenue Opportunity That Can No Longer Be Ignored

The current tough economic environment has renewed institutional focus on student retention as a revenue source. With public institutions facing slashed state allocations and private institutions wondering if they will be able to maintain the enrollment necessary to meet budget, many schools are seeing the potential for deriving additional tuition revenue from retaining more students.

Doing Well by Doing Good

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We Can Do Better

National persistence rates are virtually unchanged over recent decades despite significant new investment in support resources. Financial investment in academic support and student services is growing at a rate almost double that of investment in instruction, yet this investment has done little to move the dial. As college access to at-risk populations expands, universities are likely to find that they are running harder just to stay in place.

Running to Stay in Place

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How Much Better Could We Be?

Nonetheless, some schools perform much better than peers, and others are making significant advances. There is considerable variation in retention and graduation rates among institutions of similar selectivity and market segment, suggesting that most universities can dramatically improve performance without raising admissions standards. The rapid improvement in retention rates observed at some universities further suggests that performance is malleable and quick gains are possible.

How Much Better Could We Be?

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Making Better Use of What We Have

Progressive universities are raising their success rates through proactive intervention with at-risk students, not through investment in expensive new support services. Universities improving their retention and graduation rates are getting the most out of existing resources by investing heavily in early warning mechanisms that proactively identify troubled students and route them to the right resources. In addition, targeted efforts to keep students on course to graduation are reducing time to degree and improving completion rates.

Making Better Use of What We Have

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Hardwiring Student Success

Retention Management Office