Retention

Report: Taking Just 1 More Course Improves Student Persistence

Taking just one more course per term can increase persistence toward graduation for some students, according to a new report from Civitas Learning.

Based on data from 60 institutions and nearly 1.4 million students, the report found that, particularly for part-time and nontraditional students, "even small shifts in course load can have a profound impact on success rates."

"Time to degree is a major concern for students, one that colleges often do not take seriously enough. Research shows that students who can take more classes on a focused path to a degree, should, because it helps them succeed at higher rates. Whether it's 15 in a term, 30 in a year, or just one more class," said Davis Jenkins, Civitas Learning advisor and senior research scholar at Community College Research Center, in a prepared statement. "This report adds another important component to this conversation regarding the on-path progress of part-time students, who are a large part of the higher education mix."

Key findings of the report include:

  • The average gap in persistence between part-time and full-time students was 12.03 percentage points;
  • The largest shift in median persistence, 14.91 percentage points, was found between community college students taking one course and those taking two; and
  • Smaller improvements of two to three percentage points were also visible all the way up to students who take six courses as opposed to those who take five.

The report's authors write that the findings suggest that campaigns that focus on a particular number of credits to improve retention may be ineffective because they ignore the differing circumstances among students.

"At community colleges, an estimated 62 percent of students are pursuing their studies on a part-time basis, for financial or personal reasons," said Karen A. Stout, president of Achieving the Dream, in the foreword to the report. "For those 6.5 million students, too many of whom never graduate, colleges must be prepared to have more expansive and nuanced conversations about completion. If our collective goal is to improve outcomes across higher education, we cannot and must not take our attention away from those students."

To access the full report, visit info.civitaslearning.com.

About the Author

Joshua Bolkan is contributing editor for Campus Technology, THE Journal and STEAM Universe. He can be reached at jbolkan@gmail.com.

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