Retention of students in any institution of learning, irrespective of its level, is very essential as it contributes to the success of the students in terms of academic performance that in the long run affects the overall performance of the institution at large. This is so because the students are able to learn without disturbances which can be brought about by changes or transfers to other learning institutions where they have to adapt to the new environment and the learning strategies of the new school.
The practice of retaining the students is however not easy as it is faced with a lot of challenges which should be dealt with to ensure its success (Bean and Eaton, 2000).This piece of work discusses the retention of students in learning institutions much emphasis being given to the variables that affect student retention, the goals and strategies that can be applied to handle the variables, the enablers and constrainers involved and finally an assessment plan to measure the success and progress of the goals and strategies.
Variables That Affect Student Retention to Be Addressed In the Goals and Strategies
There are numerous factors that are associated with the retention of students in learning institutions. The factors however depend on the type of school for instance elite institutions and community colleges with the former having high rates of retention as compared to the latter.
Some of the general variables that affect student retention include; the academic status of the institution in terms of the overall grades attained the satisfaction linked with social life or student peer group which may include classroom relations, games interactions and even roommates socialization among others. The student background for instance the support from the parents’ income; the student’s education goals and previous education performance also determine his or her retention (Wetzel, O’Toole and Peterson, 1999).
The organizational factors such as the orientation programs used in the institution, the rules and regulation governing the institution, the relationships between the staff and the students in the institution, the financial aid and housing policies also matter. The academic factors affecting retention of students include the resources available in the institution, the courses offered, the organization of faculties, and the learning programs among others.
The social factors on the other hand may include the peers, the social groupings and integration among others. Environmental factors also influence the retention of students in learning institutions. They may include the transfer opportunities available, marital status of the students, the financial resources, and family and job responsibilities among others.
The particular student also plays a role in determining his or her retention for instance his or her intentions and attitudes for example self motivation and development, the urge for performance and achievement, the value attached to education, satisfaction, the approach strategies and most importantly the student’s intention to stay enrolled in the institution (Lau, 2003).
Goals and Strategies to Address the Variables
In setting the goals and strategies in a learning institution, it is essential to observe the retention indicators for instance the potential opportunities and challenges linked with the students. The important indicators could include course completion and course success rates among others.
The major retention goals could be to enhance persistence and progression which entails semester to semester enrollment and its success. The retention goals should cater for the variables mentioned above to ensure that they are solved in the most efficient, effective, and economic manner possible. There are various strategies that can be applied in the institution to ensure that students are not only enrolled but retained.
Some of the strategies to be applied in this particular institution include early interventions for example provision of outreach programs meant to develop students competencies while they are still in high school and also just after their entry into the higher institution of learning, there should also be administration of appropriate orientation strategies that may ease the transition process of the students to the high level education institution that clearly contain information about the institution and the academic procedures as well as social support necessary for staying in the institution.
Another strategy is the intensification and diversification of learning through development of appropriate standards and effective curriculums, employment of knowledgeable and well trained teaching staff and provision of appropriate learning experiences for instance where the students are told of the relevance and application of all the courses taken.
The parents are also an important constituent of the institution and programs should be developed that are aimed at making them understand the student life so that they can offer the necessary support and encourage them to remain in the school. Psychological counseling is also an important aspect as it helps solve most of the problems faced by the students that could in one way or the other affect the possibility of them being retained in the institution for instance stress.
Provision of basic skills for example proper time management may also help keep the student comfortable and satisfied hence reducing the chances of deferment or transfer. Encouragement of participation in extra curriculum activities like social functions also helps the students to feel at home and anticipate for certain activities hence avoiding chances of losing interest in the institution (Seidman, 2005).
Enablers and Constrainers
Every process or activity is deemed to be having some enablers and constrainers or the factors that facilitate its success and those that derail its progress or success. The retention process in this institution can be enhanced by various factors for instance its high quality in terms of education standards and also the fact that the institution is well known, the availability of appropriate orientation programs, a pool of qualified and well trained personnel especially the teaching staff and a favorable institutional culture among others.
Constrainers to the retention process in the institution are also present and they include the limitation of financial aid to support the less fortunate students, poor students’ background which makes education prosperity impossible, poor individual attitudes among students for instance lack of self motivation and development and the absence of the urge to achieve among others.
An assessment plan to measure the success and progress of the goals and strategies
A process is never considered successful if the results of the set goals and the implemented strategies cannot be ascertained. A good retention plan should therefore include an assessment plan that can be used to gauge the rate of retention of the students as well as looking into the factors that affect the retention.
The assessment metrics to be observed in determining the progress and success of the retention process as set by the retention goals and strategies include looking at the students’ participation and satisfaction in major functions and activities of the institution, the grades attained by the students, the rates of absenteeism among other factors.
An effective assessment plan should involve the formation of specific questions, data planning and data collection in regard to the identified metrics and information utilization and communication to ensure that student retention is enhanced by dealing with the faults identified (Tinto, n.d).
The retention of students in learning institutions is a very critical aspect that should never be underemphasized under all circumstances. The two major student related problems faced by the administration is the enrollment which entails the initial capture of the students to the institution and the retention of the students which entails keeping them enrolled.
Attrition is however less disturbing in institutions which attract a large number of applicants and have high rates of retention and vice versa. While there are variations of students in different institutions, there is a general pattern that can be retrieved from various researches carried out on the issue in which retention follows.
For instance it has been observed that the higher the level of education or degree offered in an institution, the higher the retention rates and vice versa. It is also true that older and well established learning institutions which in most cases have long traditions and bigger support have higher retention rates as compared to the emerging institutions which could be having shaky foundations.
The student retention rates are also higher in high quality institutions than it is in less prestigious learning institutions. The mode of learning also affects the retention rates for instance institutions that offer fulltime courses to the average aged students who reside in the school have high retention rates than those offering part time courses to the old people who are school non residents.
Bean, J. P., and Eaton, S B. (2000). A Psychological Model of College Student Retention; In Rethinking the Departure Puzzle: New Theory and Research on College Student Retention, ed. John M. Braxton. Nashville, TN: Vanderbilt University Press.
Lau, K.L. (2003). Institutional Factors Affecting Student Retention. Retrieved from http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_qa3673/is_1_124/ai_n29032701/?tag=content;col1
Seidman, A. (2005). College Student Retention: Formula for Student Success. New York: Greenwood Publishing Group
Tinto, V. (n.d). The Assessment of Student Retention Programs. Retrieved from http://www.mcli.dist.maricopa.edu/fsd/c2006/docs/assessingretention.pdf
Wetzel, N.J, O’Toole, D and Peterson, S. (1999). Factors Affecting Student Retention Probabilities: A Case Study. Journal of Economics and Finance. Volume 23. No. 1. 45-55. Spring