Does student retention require a culture shift on your campus? First of a two-part article
Ruffalo Noel Levitz
June 12, 2014
This is the first part of a two-part article featuring excerpts from a popular Noel-Levitz white paper originally released in 2000, The Earth-Shaking But Quiet Revolution in Retention Management, by Randi Levitz and Lee Noel, founders of Noel-Levitz. Read the second part of the article here or download the original white paper.
“The success of an institution and the success of its students are inseparable.” If you take this credo seriously, you commit your institution—and every individual in it, from the president to faculty members to support staff—to a path of radical and permanent change.
Why embark on such a course? As budgets tighten, as pools of potential students shrink, as competition for resources of all kinds increase, as regents, legislators, taxpayers, and prospective students and their families take up the cry for institutional accountability, colleges and universities that put students first will thrive just as their students will.
If this sounds daunting, don’t be misled. For nearly every institution, substantial gains in retention are possible if managed properly. On the other hand, improvement in retention does not happen without careful thought and considerable energy. Successful retention management involves “distance philosophy” which assumes that the main purpose of education and, therefore, the main business of the institution, is to change people’s lives. When administrators, faculty, and staff fully appreciate the need to retain students, it will show in their attitude toward students. Students will no longer be impositions on our work. Students will be the purpose of our work.
As a result, daily interactions will be less mechanical. Relationships between students and faculty, staff and administrators, will develop naturally. And this camaraderie among members of the campus community will demonstrate itself through loyalty to the institution. When students learn and feel successful on campus, they stay.
In contrast, whereas moderately dissatisfied students may remain on campus, these students certainly will not recommend that their acquaintances attend the same institution. This can have a far-reaching impact on enrollments since most institutions recruit new students from the same high schools, neighborhoods, and work places each year. What’s more, if students become substantially dissatisfied, they’ll simply leave the institution to explore “greener pastures.”
On the other hand, the student who is experiencing the right combination of support and independence at college will appear more personally developed and will feel more satisfied. This noticeable growth, in and of itself, will be a statement about the institution’s quality of programs and services. The student’s excitement about these aspects as he or she discusses them with friends and family are an added bonus. The extent to which current students leave campus feeling satisfied and excited about what they have experienced on campus helps determine the ease with which the institution is able to recruit in those areas in subsequent visits and subsequent years.
Those of us who have been working in this field almost from the very beginning have learned a great deal. The main thing we have learned is that institutions must deliberately establish a plan to increase student retention. Retention does not just happen. Retention is something we can control.
For more information and insights
Come to Chicago, July 8-10, 2014, for the Noel-Levitz National Conference on Student Recruitment, Marketing, and Retention, where you can choose from presentations such as:
- Mentoring and Mentoring Programs: Powerful Tools for Engaging and Retaining Students
- From Swirl to Success: How to Make Your College the Final Destination for Transfer Students
- Enhancing Student Success by Identifying and Re-Recruiting Stopouts, Dropouts, and Re-admits
- Adult Undergraduates in 2014 and Beyond: Profiles, Priorities, and Paths to Persistence and Success That Guide Their Decision-Making Processes
- The Academic Success Program: A New Intervention Model That Doubles the Retention Rate of Students on Academic Probation