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As the higher education landscape continues to evolve, student retention rates have become a critical area of focus for universities around the world. Higher education institutions have a mission to provide students with a quality education. To continue working toward this goal, it is necessary to have a strategy on how to increase the number of students who progress through the entire university journey and successfully graduate. In this article, you can find out:

  • Why is it important to pay attention to student retention rates now?
  • What are the factors that affect student retention? 
  • What strategies can universities implement to support student success?

Retention rates

Why is it important to pay attention to student retention rates now?

According to the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center, enrollment has declined in the past couple of years. Higher education institutions lost around 1.3 million students between the spring of 2020 and the spring of 2022.  

Retention rates are a key indicator of student and university success. High retention rates can signal that a university is providing a supportive and engaging learning environment, while low retention rates may indicate that there are areas in which the institution needs to improve or change. Retention rates can also impact a university’s reputation. Higher retention rates can help enhance a university’s standing in the higher education community, which can in turn attract more students and support the institution’s long-term success.

student retention rates

What are the factors that affect student retention? 

Student retention is a complex subject that is influenced by a wide range of factors. Some of the most important factors are university support, financial considerations, personal circumstance, campus culture, and overall academic experience. 

Research shows that academic support can have a significant impact on student retention rates. A study conducted by the National Center for Education Statistics found that students who received tutoring, or academic support, were more likely to complete their degrees than those who did not. Specifically, the study found that 68 percent of students who received tutoring, or academic support graduated within six years, compared to only 45 percent of students who did not receive this support.

Building a sense of community is another critical factor in improving student retention rates. Universities can create a supportive and inclusive environment by offering social and extracurricular activities, student clubs and organizations, and other opportunities for students to connect with each other. Additionally, universities can provide mentorship programs, peer support networks, and opportunities for students to connect with faculty and staff. Research shows that students who feel a sense of community are more likely to complete their degrees than those who do not. A study conducted by the Lumina Foundation found that students who were involved in campus activities and had strong relationships with faculty and staff were more likely to graduate than those who did not have these connections.

What strategies can universities implement to support student success?

There are several strategies that universities can implement to support student success and improve retention rates as a result. Here are a few examples:

Use data to identify at-risk students

Universities can use data analytics to identify students who may be at risk of dropping out. This can include factors such as low grades, attendance, or financial aid issues. By identifying these students early, universities can provide targeted support and interventions to help them stay on track.

Increase transparency and communication

Universities can increase transparency by providing students with clear information about academic requirements, deadlines, and financial aid. Communication can also be improved through regular check-ins with academic advisors and professors, and by providing regular updates on institutional news and changes.

Academic support

Universities can provide academic support through tutoring, mentoring, and academic advising. If possible, personal support through counseling services, health services, and support for students who have financial problems is also worth providing.

Foster a sense of community and belonging

Universities can create a sense of community by offering opportunities for students to connect with one another, such as through clubs and organizations, student events, and social media groups. This can help to create a sense of belonging and increase student engagement with the institution.

Address systemic barriers

Universities can work to address systemic barriers that may impact student success, such as lack of access to resources, discrimination, and bias. This can be done through institutional policies, such as financial aid programs and diversity and inclusion initiatives.

student retention rates

Conclusion

Student retention rates have become a necessary area of focus for higher education institutions around the world. Universities that recognize the importance of supporting students in their academic journey will improve retention rates. By providing academic support, fostering a sense of community and belonging, using data to identify at-risk students, increasing transparency and communication, and addressing systemic barriers, universities can increase student success and enhance their reputation in the higher education community. As the higher education landscape continues to evolve, prioritizing student retention rates will be essential to ensure that universities are providing quality education and supporting students to achieve their academic goals.

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