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Ruffalo Noel Levitz Study Rates Top Student Success Practices Employed by Colleges and Universities

New report shows top-rated student retention and completion strategies, including first-year programs, academic support, one-on-one advising, and practical work experiences related to majors

September 27, 2017: Ruffalo Noel Levitz, the leading provider of higher education enrollment management, student success, and fundraising solutions, released today the findings of a summer 2017 poll of campus leaders on the practices that impact student success, retention, and college completion.

The research report, Effective Practices for Student Success, Retention, and Completion, provides effectiveness ratings for 28 tactics, 30 management practices, and 13 population-specific programs. The ratings are provided separately for four-year private institutions, four-year public institutions, and two-year public institutions.

The most utilized retention/completion practices by student success officers across all sectors included programs for first-year students, academic support, one-on-one advising, programs designed specifically for students who are at risk academically, and providing students with practical work experiences related to their majors. Use of social media to engage enrolled students emerged as a widespread practice, but most respondents rated the practice only minimally effective or somewhat effective.

Additional research findings include:

  • Fewer than half of poll respondents had a written plan for college completion that they considered “good or excellent.” 
  • Student success programs targeted to specific student populations are often under-utilized but rated effective by those that do use them.
  • A majority of respondents reported that they do not have student retention programs beyond the first year, even though attrition in year two is substantial.
  • Student success management tools, including statistical modeling to predict completion and retention software, were rated effective but were not widely used.
  • The practice of mandatory academic advising for online learners was rated as very effective or effective by more than 85 percent of respondents from four-year institutions.
  • Respondents from half or more of public institutions reported that performance-based funding has influenced them to pay more attention to retention and college completion.

“Colleges and universities across the country continue to set the bar higher when it comes to student retention and completion,” said Raquel Bermejo, associate vice president of market research and planning at RNL. “While most strategies evolve over time, benchmarks like these can inspire student success leaders to explore promising new strategies or reinvigorate existing practices.”

Data in this report reflect responses from 142 four-year and two-year colleges and universities that collectively enrolled 770,000 students. In addition to the report, Ruffalo Noel Levitz released a related infographic that highlights further analysis, benchmarks, and insights to help colleges and universities with the student success planning process.

For a copy of the 4-page infographic and the complete findings, visit www.RuffaloNL.com/RetentionPractices.

About Ruffalo Noel Levitz

Ruffalo Noel Levitz is the leading provider of higher education enrollment, student success, and fundraising solutions. Each year, more than 1,900 colleges, universities, and nonprofit organizations rely on RNL best-in-class analytics, engagement technology, and industry-leading insights to achieve their mission. The firm is distinguished by its powerful portfolio of solutions focused on the entire lifecycle of enrollment and fundraising, assuring students find the right college or university, graduate on time, secure their first job in their desired field, and give back to support the next generation. In addition, Ruffalo Noel Levitz conferences, research reports, papers, and articles help clients stay on top of current trends. Visit www.RuffaloNL.com.

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