Retention Rx

While most higher ed institutions consider technology-based interventionscritical to student retention, few have any kind of early warning system inplace to identify at-risk students.

The following online article, "Student Retention: AreSchools Taking Advantage of Technology?", ran on May 13, 2008.

COLLEGE AND UNIVERSITY administratorsconsider personal attention to be the most critical factor inretaining at-risk students. But what role should technologyplay in the effort? While many institutions consider technology-based interventions important to student retention,few seem to be using such solutions, and only 2 percenthave any kind of early warning system in place to identifyat-risk students, according to data released to CT byhigher education strategy firm EducationDynamics.

Retention RxThe February/March 2008 survey included stats from 357 respondents from 46 states and the District of Columbia. Respondents represented a variety of higher ed institutions: 69 percent had less than 20 percent of their student body enrolled in graduate programs; 51 percent said that more than 70 percent of their student body is made up of undergraduates; 77 percent had enrollment of 10,000 or fewer students; 46 percent had fewer than 3,000 students; and 76 percent said that more than half their students depend on federal financial aid to pay for school.

Retention Strategies for At-Risk Students

Retention RxAmong the findings, respondents rated in-person meetings and one-on-one phone calls as the two most effective means for engaging students at risk. Respondents were asked to rate the effectiveness of various programs on a scale of 1 to 5, with 5 being the most effective. In-person meetings rated a 4.5, and one-on-one phone calls rated a 4. Social networking and e-mail came in third and fourth, with mean scores of 3.3 and 3.1, respectively. SMS/text messaging rounded out the top five at 2.6. The bottom three methods were pre-recorded MP3 files (2), postal mail (2.2), and voicemail (2.5).

When asked about the importance of computer- or web-based programs aimed at reducing attrition and improving retention, most (64 percent) said such programs were "somewhat" or "very" important (see first chart).

However, only a little more than half of respondents (55 percent) reported that their institutions offer online advising services, and only about a third or less reported using either online social networking, online career counseling, or online mentoring (see second chart).

About the Author

David Nagel is the executive producer for 1105 Media's online K-12 and higher education publications and electronic newsletters. He can be reached at dnagel@1105media.com. He can now be followed on Twitter at http://twitter.com/THEJournalDave (K-12) or http://twitter.com/CampusTechDave (higher education). You can also connect with him on LinkedIn at http://www.linkedin.com/profile/view?id=10390192.

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