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Six Steps to Impacting First-Year Retention Now

Six Steps to Impacting First-Year Retention Now

The “first-year experience” is a hot topic in higher ed.  If you are focused on new student fall to fall retention, you are entering a critical time.  Most obstacles and doubts have likely surfaced by now and in the spring term they will start to cement.  Missing home, program of study, social integration and finances are just some factors that come into play.  Reflecting on the fall term and identifying the predominant obstacles will lead to more effective student support and increased persistence.

I have consistently found year after year that an entering cohort of students has its own personality.  Meaning, each cohort has their own unique characteristics.  This results in shifting strengths and challenges your students face.  I love this aspect of student retention – it keeps you on your toes.  Considering that fall cohorts are typically the largest of the year, it’s valuable to hone in on the trends that are impacting student success for that cohort.  As you dive into the spring term, modifying your support to meet those needs can be highly advantageous.

Here are 6 steps to impact first year retention:

  1. Look at trends in obstacles students are facing
  2. Identify common themes
  3. Shift resources to meet student challenges
  4. Collaborate and gain alignment on strategies to support students
  5. Share tools and approaches that have worked to help students overcome obstacles
  6. Identify the students who are facing these obstacles quickly

Look for trends in obstacles students are facing.  Discuss as a group what you are observing with your students while also pulling any quantitative data available.

Identify common themes.  Document 3 to 5 barriers keeping the themes student-focused (meaning, don’t blame the football team’s poor season).

Shift resources to meet student challenges.  Ensure that the size of the team or department is commensurate with the number of students who need support.

Collaborate and gain alignment on strategies to support students.  Utilize the collective wisdom of your team to document how to approach and navigate through your common themes.

Share tools and approaches that have worked to help students overcome obstacles.  If an approach doesn’t work, don’t give up.  It often takes a couple of times before you get it down.  Celebrate wins and publicize effective strategies.

Identify the students who are facing these obstacles quickly.  The best time to build skills and hone a student’s attitude is when they are face to face with their challenge.

If you’re lucky, a student will sit down with an instructor, advisor, coach or support staff and clearly articulate the concerns on their mind.  But don’t count on this to happen.  Engage, listen and poke around to flush out potential barriers to year two.  You’re the expert who can provide coaching and make the difference between a student achieving their academic goals or not.  Believe that you have the ability to make that difference and you will!!

Aviso provides software and analytics to increase student success and retention.  Click here to learn more.

How to Select Retention Software

How to Select Retention Software

If you are supporting students in higher ed then you likely could benefit from one of the many solutions currently available.  A great retention solution will do a couple of critical things for student success:

  1. Get the right student information in the right hands at the right time
  2. Eliminate grunt work so your focus is on quality student support

Whether your first-year retention is 90% or 60%, student advising and engagement is vital to the health of a university.  You have a wide range of options to explore.  This article focuses on 5 things that should be on your list when considering a retention solution:

Cost:  The solution you select should more than pay for itself.  Determine a reasonable expectation for an increase in retention (whether its total enrollment, first year retention or a specified sub-population) and ensure the resulting tuition gain is significantly greater than the cost of the software.

Implementation:  I hear about system fatigue a lot.  IT teams are always overloaded.  Faculty needs a break from new system integrations.  Student support staff are comfortable with what the antiquated system they are currently using.  The more complex your solution, the greater impact on resources.  Select a solution that has minimal impact on your IT team and can train your staff in less than a day.

On-going Admin:  The more complex a retention solution the more on-going admin support and maintenance you will need.  When you hire or reallocate a part or full time individual as an on-going administrator, you have to include this in your overall cost.

Type of Partnership: Do you prefer a collaborative partner with higher ed expertise or would you prefer to be left alone with the software?  Many solutions out there will have you pay extra for the “consulting” portion.  A true collaborative partner will be just as invested in supporting the achievement of established retention targets without piling on extra fees.

Features:  It’s going to be hard to find a solution that meets every single one of your needs.  Go for the solution that has your essential components and choose a partner that is nimble enough to build the extra features you need down the road.

There are several options out there to enhance how your faculty and staff engage students.  Include faculty, student support staff and IT in your decision-making process.  They will thank you in the end.

Aviso Retention provides analytics, software and expertise to increase student retention and engagement.  Click here to learn more.

 

Now I’m worried about the DRAIN, not the DRIP

Now I’m worried about the DRAIN, not the DRIP

References to “data rich, information poor” (DRIP) syndrome are ubiquitous; a quick Google search returns articles addressing DRIP in numerous disciplines including education, health care, and water quality management. Organizations suffering from DRIP find themselves awash in data—quantifiable facts and statistics—but lacking information—knowledge obtained through analysis of these data.

Universities and colleges are avoiding DRIP by employing data management procedures that result in consumable, aggregated information. These activities may be the responsibility of an internal office, contracted to an external group, or, as I have found useful, assigned to a mix of both internal and external data professionals.

Following the distillation of relevant information through data analytics, institutions must avoid the next hurdle: “data rich, abundant information, non-action” (DRAIN) syndrome. DRAIN occurs when information lies dormant. This syndrome may be the result of a lack of institutional resources to take on a new project, the inability to navigate institutional silos to prompt action, or poor cross-divisional communication channels for sharing information.

A signal that DRAIN is present is the utterance of the phrase “OK, so what?” or “Interesting” after a quick scan of a report. For example, insights about the success factors for student sub-populations are bundled into reports, shared across departments, viewed with mild curiosity, and then filed away without prompting action.

DRAIN is akin to and sometimes accompanied by “paralysis by analysis.” In this situation, the constant quest for the “perfect data point” stymies any project built on the available information. “If we only knew . . .” has halted action and constricted development of relevant programs many times over.

The best remedy for DRAIN is to prepare a plan to leverage information derived from large data sets. The following steps will assist in developing these types of procedures, and discussion on each step will be addressed in future blog posts on DRAIN.

  1. Determine if the information is actionable
  2. Decide how to employ the information
  3. Pilot programs or outreach
  4. Measure the effectiveness of the program
  5. Revise, expand, or retire the program

 

 

 

About the Author:

Nathan Miller, Ph.D. is the Senior Director for Student Success at Columbia College in Columbia, MO. In this role he is responsible for the design, implementation of student success programming for a diverse and geographically disparate student population.