Do not get me wrong, I cared and fought for students both as an administrator and as an instructor. I saw tears of joy at graduation and I stared into eyes of complete despair when a student thought their educational journey had come to an end. However, I do not think I ever did an adequate job ensuring that persistence and retention came together not just as terms, but as binding activities creating shared success stories and ultimately creating a personal relationship between student and school.

McLenney and Waiwaiole (2005) presented six strategies to promote student success. Strategy #4 is by far my favorite – Collective Responsibility and Team Building.

Improving student retention is not something that can be done by an isolated group at the college…or achieved through a single stand-alone initiative. Improving retention rates is a collective responsibility: everyone—faculty, staff and administrators, along with the students themselves—must work together to promote student success. (McLenney and Waiwaiole, 2005, p. 40)

Define these terms as you see fit. Pour over data to set your goals and to benchmark against national data or peer institutions. Set up committees or let activities organically happen from program to program. No matter what you do proactively or reactively, never ever forget that at the heart of what we do in higher education is helping students achieve success.

Use essays for admission decisions, and then take the time to truly understand why students are at your institution and discover their hopes, dreams, and goals. Create the relationship. Move away from thinking only about what students can do to persist and what institutions can do to retain. Create a new model. Persistion, anyone?

Jason Wyrick is an Academic Trainer & Consultant for Pearson.

References

Boyer, E.L. (1990). Scholarship reconsidered: Priorities of the professoriate. Princeton, NJ: Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching.

Hagedorn, L. S. (2005). How to define retention: A new look at an old problem. In A. Seidman (Ed.), College student retention (pp. 89-105). Westport: Praeger Publishers. McClenney, K.M. and Waiwaiole, E.N. Focus on student retention: Promising practices in community colleges. Community College Journal, 75(6), 36-41.

Tinto, V. (2006). Research and practice of student retention: What next? Journal of College Student Retention, 8(1), 1-19.

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