Student Retention: Whose Responsibility Is It?
In light of current challenges facing higher education, student retention is more important than ever. Though challenges may be new, far too often our ways of thinking are old. Our own Dr. Marylouise Fennell and Dr. Scott D. Miller note, “When it comes to student retention, it turns out that what we thought we knew ain’t necessarily so. Current research reveals that many key assumptions on which we have often based enrollment management practices need to be challenged and modified.”
Institutions have identified that students are most at risk of dropping out in the first 90 days. Student cohorts and staff mentors have helped, but often still come up short. The old adage about one bad apple is abundantly true with university staff. Miller and Fennel share,
“Further, we have often placed most responsibility for retention upon faculty or enrollment management staff, rather than fostering connectivity across the board. All employees need to be models, mentors and monitors. The stronger the connections they foster with students, the higher the rate of student persistence.
The reverse is also true. ‘Unconscious saboteurs’—those who (often unknowingly) create negative enrollment outcomes—can undo the best work of even model mentors. ‘It takes 11 positive mentor models to counteract the influence of one negative,’ Dr. Joe Pace notes.
Thus, it is critical for institutions to train all employees in what Pace calls ‘the entrepreneurial spirit,’ focusing on the student or customer-oriented side of higher education.”