Editor’s note: This story is part of a series examining the aspects of recruitment, enrollment, and retention on U.S. campuses. Check back next Monday for a look at the factors contributing to the impending enrollment cliff.
- Minority students across all institution types tend to have lower completion rates
- Institutions must identify and remove barriers to minority student success
White students have historically experienced higher graduation rates at American colleges and universities than minority students. The Hechinger Report found that graduation rates for White students stood 2.5 times higher than for Black students and 60 percent higher than that of Latino students.
Despite recent improvements to higher-ed access, White students remain in the majority, with fewer than 40 percent of enrolled students identifying as a race other than White. Regardless of the recent increase in Black and Latino enrollment, students of color remain the majority of those who drop out.
The problem does not improve in community college environments. A recent study from the Community College Review found that the two-year college completion rate for students of color is only 24 percent. A further 12 percent of students from underrepresented minority groups transfer to bachelor’s degree programs within four years of enrolling in a community college, and a mere 7 percent of low-income and minority community college students earn a bachelor’s degree within ten years.
College graduation rates vary substantially across racial groups. Federal data shows that White students who began attending a four-year college in 2010 graduated at a rate of 63.9 percent within six years, while Black students who started college in the same year graduated at a rate of 39.9 percent. Bias and systemic barriers can often restrict minority students from achieving success, and when the pandemic struck, traditionally disadvantaged populations were affected even more. Higher-ed institutions witnessed enrollments drop for Black and Hispanic populations at a greater rate than their White counterparts.
Institutions must do their part to keep students of color engaged and increase retention. To help students with at-risk characteristics succeed, barriers must be identified before they become obstacles. When institutions invest in and implement the necessary systems to support students, staff can better understand student hardships and help them to graduate.
Understanding student success coaching
A student success coach must not be misconstrued as an academic advisor as there are some clear, inherent differences. An academic advisor assists early on in laying out a graduation plan and provides registration-related assistance. Alternatively, a success coach is the key to driving long-term student success. They do this by implementing a supportive approach that considers every single aspect of being a student while acting as a single point of contact. These coaches evaluate how students’ current employment, family commitments, housing, and health issues impact their lives and education.
It’s pivotal to understand the importance of assigning the right success coaches to the right students. Higher education organizations cannot simply throw anyone into the role and cross their fingers for good results. For the best outcomes, potential coaches must be properly vetted and have two things in common: experience building quality one-on-one relationships, and the ability to make connections at the institution or surrounding community that the student wouldn’t necessarily make on their own.
Success coaches improve and benefit higher education institutions and the student – especially the minority population. Black and Latino students are far more likely to remain enrolled and succeed when guided by the support of a success coach. These coaches enable students to succeed by providing them with information, support, and guidance on the journey toward their degree.
Flexibility in approach
There are so many ways success coaches can help students achieve equity in education. Success coaches provide students with opportunities to learn in a way that works best with their lifestyle and helps them identify resources that can increase their engagement with course material. Coaches reduce barriers for underprivileged students to overcome challenges and assist first-generation college students in navigating higher education. A success coach strengthens familial connections and relationships with educators while considering the long-term scope of improving the community, promoting civic engagement, and preparing students to become economic contributors. Each institution should structure its usage of success coaches based on the needs of the student population, while reflecting institutional culture and relationships that have been created through community partnerships.
Executing success coaching through the scope of technology
Advancements in higher education technology and analytics have further strengthened student success coaching models. Now, student success coaches can use predictive analytics and monitoring tools to identify what students should focus on and when it’s time to intervene. These analytics can help drive student retention solutions to ensure all students have a fair chance of graduating.
College and university staff certainly recognize there will always be students at higher risk of dropping out before graduation. Still, it can be challenging to figure out who they are. A student success coaching platform can identify why a student might be unsuccessful and provide them with the necessary resources to address any potential challenges before a crisis occurs. A success coaching platform can identify trends or challenges to success and offer students and their coaches potential solutions.
Providing coaches for students of color is a necessary step that colleges and universities must take to improve equity on campus. Consistent success coaching has been shown to positively impact student achievements and retention when institutions work to strategically align people, processes, and technology to improve outcomes for all vulnerable student populations. With this, higher education institutions can take swift steps to increase minority student retention and optimize their chances of achieving certificate and degree completion.
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