According to the National Center for Education Studies, only 60 percent of students who enter a four-year degree program graduate within six years. Additionally, only about 10 percent of low income, first-generation students finish their degrees on time. Overall, student retention here is relatively low.

Factors influencing student retention in higher education are most often rooted in students’ personal experiences. While every student has a different story, the commonalities of their experiences provide insight into how to improve student retention in higher education. Among these factors are:

  • Connectedness to the institution 
  • Connectedness to others
  • Expectations of what the college entails
  • Grades
  • Cost
  • Bureaucratic barriers

Higher education student retention strategies

Improving retention in higher education has become a major priority of institutions. This comes as no surprise, given the fact that it is much more expensive to enroll a new student than it is to retain an existing one. Such strategies include:

Knowing your students: Understanding why students are not staying in school and anticipating these issues comes down to the data. Not only do these issues vary by individual, they vary by institution; understanding your population can help you address these nuances. (e.g. filtering information in student advising mgmt. systems, etc.)

Building a home for students: Providing opportunities for community among students can help ward off feelings of homesickness while building an allegiance and affinity for their school and for others sharing a similar experience. (e.g., student unions, residential programming, etc.)

Providing adequate access to academic resources: Resources like writing and engagement centers and tutoring and counseling services are important, but making them accessible to students is critical. (e.g., virtual tutoring, evening advising hours, etc.)

Providing adequate access to financial resources: The largest barrier for college students is the cost of attending school. Understanding financial aid and having awareness of scholarship opportunities, for example, can make or break a student’s ability to stay enrolled. (e.g., financial advising alongside academic advising, virtual Q&A/chats, etc.)

Making the bureaucracy navigable: Understanding the ins and outs of higher education institutions can be overwhelming. Without appropriate guidance, students may fail to do things such as register for courses they need in time, leaving them at risk of increasing their time to graduation or even worse, leaving school all together. (e.g., automated course registration reminders, required advising Q&A sessions)

How do digital tools boost retention in higher education

We are lucky to be at a place in time where technology can work to our advantage in this effort. Digital platforms have evolved to give a much richer picture of students’ progress, providing students and advisors/professors with the opportunity to focus on things within their control (as opposed to a student’s lack of preparedness for college, for example). 

By utilizing the filters in his institution’s student advising management system and asking follow up questions of his students, one advisor revealed that a significant number of students were not able to register for courses simply due to unpaid parking tickets!

The right technology platform can solve even the most challenging aspects of student retention:

  1. It can help us understand students’ motivations, behaviors, and barriers.
  2. It can make student retention plans easier to build and manage.
  3. Automates retention activities and data collection.
  4. Gives you a scalable platform for student retention activities that works as well for 600 students or 6,000.
  5. Can target and quantify soft elements of student retention—like student wellbeing—and create a sense of belonging and community.
  6. It can measure the impact of student retention plans and provide hard-data ROI.
  7. It can empower students by making answers accessible.

The answer to the question of how to improve student retention in higher education becomes obvious when utilizing the right technology platform. Collecting the right information informs appropriate retention strategies, enabling interventions to be timed well and tailored to fit students’ needs. 

To learn more about how BetterYou can help impact student retention, click here to schedule a meeting with our team.