Instead of operating in crisis mode to curb dropout rates, institutions can use web-based services to improve learning in a way that naturally supports students staying in school and completing coursework.
Student attrition from institutions of higher learning is an epidemic in the United States. According to a report by the National Student Clearinghouse, only 55 percent of first-time college students in 2008 had completed a degree within six years. Most dropouts leave college before their second year. This is a significant concern: in a recent survey of higher education decision makers conducted by the Center for Digital Education (CDE), 74 percent of respondents identified increasing retention and graduation rates as higher education institutions’ top priority.
The ability to retain and advance students not only influences college rankings, reputation and recruitment of top talent, but also impacts the bottom line. Enrolled students provide a steady revenue stream through tuition and other purchases (e.g., books, parking passes and food services). Student retention also allows recruitment dollars to go further by decreasing the need to continually replace students who have dropped out.
Contrary to popular perception, poor academic performance isn’t always the reason for leaving college. Factors influencing attrition include poor preparation, financial hardship, work or family demands and a lack of engagement or relevance.
To stem the loss of new students, universities and colleges are implementing first-year programs, academic advising and other interventions. Institutions are also trying to accommodate the diverse needs of all their students by offering more personalized, flexible courses and programs.
To help create a well-rounded, sustainable approach to student retention, many institutions are turning to web-facing services and other technology. In the CDE survey referenced earlier, 90 percent of respondents anticipate an increase in web-facing applications and services over the next few years.
Given the multiple factors influencing student dropouts, it is important to use these services to create a multi-pronged approach that can address each student’s unique situation.
(Next page: 6 basic technologies that can help improve retention)