I have recently been reading Vincent Tinto’s Complete College: Rethinking Institutional Action, published in 2012. Mine is the Kindle Edition. According to Tinto 63% of students earn a bachelor degree by six years from the time of entering a program, 33% complete the degree in four years, and 40% complete their associate degree. Here is a link to a Wikipedia article on Educational Attainment in the US. If you wish to learn more about strategies for increasing student retention I suggest you buy this book.
Tinto defines Student Success simply .. as equal to college completion, which means degree attainment (at least to me). Tinto also makes the point that an institution which recruits students, provides them with an education and collects their tuition dollars has an obligation to ensure student success.
There are three areas that students need support; Academic, Financial and Social. My specific area of interest is focused on academic support. Faculty are finding that students are spending less time studying, that students need more advising and student support services to be successful. Institutions and faculty are also being asked to increase a focus on getting the student engaged with their programs and services and to become lifelong learners.
Many of these programs and services, for academic support came from a grant funded program called the First Year Experience. I have had some involvement in these types of programs throughout my career, and studies show they can make a difference, however the challenge is to get those students who need the support the most to access the services.
Examples of first year seminars:
Linking College Success Courses to Learning Communities:
Tinto Article: Learning Better Together: The Impact of Learning Communities on Student Success
R. Denise Myers article on College Success Programs
Tinto notes the importance of advising, calling it the Roadmap to Success. I have worked in institutions that were either based upon faculty advisors only, professional advisors only, or a blend of the two. I am an advocate for having a blend. My reason for this is that there are enough undeclared students, students who need advising when faculty who are off campus and students who need more intrusive advising than faculty can give them to support a blended model. In researching this blog post I found this great article from the NACADA Journal, 1994 written by Terry O’Banion on Academic Advising. And finally I strongly suggest you thoroughly review the NACADA website for more information such as this on Organizational Advising models.
Career Services: 50% of beginning students are undecided about their educational goals.
Career Services Centers are on most college and university campuses such as these examples:
Other direct academic / student support programs include:
Supplemental Instruction: From Wikipedia article (SI) is an academic support model developed by Dr. Deanna Martin  at the University of Missouri-Kansas City (UMKC) in 1973 that uses peer-assisted study sessions to improve student retention and success within targeted historically difficult courses. The SI program provides peer support by having students who succeeded in traditionally difficult academic courses (e.g., Organic Chemistry, Biology 101, Logic) help other students complete these courses. SI is a non-remedial approach that provides regular review sessions outside of class in which students work collaboratively by discussing readings, comparing notes, working together to predict test items, and sharing ideas for improving class material. Courses selected for SI tend to be “gatekeeper” courses for first and second year students—generally those classes that have a 30% or higher proportion of students who receive a “D”, fail, or withdraw (the DFW rate) from the course. Out-of-class review sessions are led by “SI leaders,” students who took the class already and did well. SI leaders attend all class lectures, take notes, and act as models to those currently taking the course. The SI model is used for selected courses at the undergraduate, graduate, and professional school levels, and has been adopted by colleges and universities in the United States and internationally.
Summer Bridge Programs:
University of Wisconsin: 10 reasons why you should attend summer bridge program
Embedded Academic Support:
In the book and in the brief, Tinto referred to Washington State’s I-Best Integrated Basic Education and Skills Training program, from the Washington State board of Community and Technical Colleges finding the following:
I-BEST pairs two instructors in the classroom – one to teach professional and technical content and the other to teach basic skills in reading, math, writing or English language – so students can move through school and into jobs faster. As students progress through the program, they learn basic skills in real-world scenarios offered by the job-training part of the curriculum.
It makes perfect sense to me and a program I would advocate to benefit students and faculty, especially in a technical college environment. Applying the learning of basic skills to the core of the program the student is enrolled in makes the learning meaningful and motivates the student. The student is more likely to persist without fears of his/her general education courses.
I have looked at lot of things education related through this blog and I intend to continue to do so. This book of Vincent Tinto’s was a return to the beginning of my career in higher education where I managed a student support center. However no matter what if you work in higher education your priority should be not only enrollment but how to keep students and support them to achieve their goals in their lives and careers.