HomePress Releases2015 Student Retention and College Completion Practices Benchmark Report for Undergraduate Programs

2015 Student Retention and College Completion Practices Benchmark Report for Undergraduate Programs

Report rates the effectiveness of 48 strategies and tactics and 33 retention management practices, including top metrics for diagnosing campus retention issues. Also included is new data on graduation rate trends, performance-based funding, online learner retention, and retention planning, staffing, and organization.

July 30, 2015—In response to the national call for raising completion and graduation rates in higher education, colleges and universities are deploying dozens of strategies, tactics, assessments, tools, and technologies.  But which of these works best? And which assessment metrics are most helpful for understanding persistence vs. non-persistence?  A new study from Ruffalo Noel Levitz rates the effectiveness of 93 specific approaches to 1) guide those who are developing new initiatives, and 2) provide benchmarks for those who want to compare the effectiveness of their existing retention program components.

The 2015 Student Retention and College Completion Practices Report was based on a 102-item, web-based Ruffalo Noel Levitz poll of campus officials in May 2015. The report provides separate findings for four-year private vs. four-year public vs. two-year public institutions. Nearly 200 institutions participated in this study. 

Among the highlights:

  • Academic support programs, honors programs, and giving students practical work experiences in their intended majors emerged as the most effective practices, across sectors, among 48 strategies and tactics that were measured in this study. Also effective were first-year student programs and one-on-one advising by professional staff.
  • Financial literacy programs were rated “minimally effective” by respondents across sectors, but nevertheless were widely used.
  • In a ranking of 33 internal management operations for retention/completion, the most effective practices across sectors for diagnosing retention issues were term-by-term persistence tracking and “identifying courses that are more difficult or less difficult to complete.”
  • Respondents from half or more of public institutions, and one-quarter of four-year private institutions, indicated that performance-based funding has influenced them to pay more attention to retention and college completion.
  • Improvements in graduation rate trends were reported by at least 44 percent of the poll’s respondents across sectors while another 40 to 46 percent reported stable rates, and only 7 to 16 percent reported declines.
  • Less than half of respondents across sectors reported having a current, written plan for student retention that they believed was of good quality, and less than half of respondents from public institutions reported having a campuswide committee for retention that they believed was of good quality.

“In this new report, colleges and universities can find answers to questions such as, what are the most effective methods to retain undergraduates in general and online learners in particular? What data and metrics are the most helpful for diagnosing campus retention issues? And which types of students are campuses pursuing most frequently to improve completion rates?” notes Dr. Tim Culver, vice president of consulting services at Ruffalo Noel Levitz. “The findings on metrics, in particular, deserve careful review by campus retention committees and other leaders who are working to increase persistence and progression rates using an analytical, data-informed approach.”

For a copy of the 32-page report, visit www.ruffalonl.com/RetentionPracticesRankings.


About Ruffalo Noel Levitz

Ruffalo Noel Levitz is a nationally recognized consulting firm focused on higher education enrollment management, student success, and fundraising. Since 1973, Ruffalo Noel Levitz has partnered with more than 3,000 colleges and universities throughout North America. For more information, visit www.RuffaloNL.com.