The Retention Counselor role is at the center of the precision managed retention system. The Counselor creates and maintains relationships with students, and is the first line of response for any student problems or concerns. Creating and maintaining an effective retention-focused relationship requires strategic and tactical outbound communications and depends upon the Counselor's judgment regarding the state of the relationship. The most common mistake we see is treating Retention Counselors as non-professional staff. Even if you are restricted in your compensation options, other benefits, considerations, and signs of importance and respect can be implemented.
Does higher education care about the unique and potentially transformative goals students have in mind when they decide to assume six figure debt and substantial opportunity cost while committing years of discretionary time to pursue a college degree? Do colleges and universities invest in learning students' goals or helping students achieve them?
Other than by chance, no predictive system will get your staff in front of an at-risk student at the exact time that an intervention is required to retain the student. Because only the student knows when his or her internal state of mind has begun to think seriously about dropping out, the institution must have established a relationship and a structure by which a student can reach out for assistance and feel comfortable doing so. Students reach out and retention is an outcome only when students have an authentic relationship with a retention counselor.
The following process measures can help managers insure that retention staff members are doing the things required to establish and maintain authentic relationships with their students. These relationships will improve performance in the incremental retention metrics summarized below as well as in the final retention-to-graduation outcome measure.
In the near term, you may not be ready for a comprehensive approach to managing and improving retention. You might be looking for smaller, one-off changes that will increase retention while your institution is working through the administrative and governance processes needed to clear the way for a more efficient structural approach.
While comprehensive retention management programs can produce very high ROI ratios, adding millions of dollars to your institution's revenue stream, less comprehensive efforts can also produce relatively high returns, even if the magnitude of effect is less. All levels of effort can improve student satisfaction, institutional effectiveness, and quality referrals.
How we conceptualize retention carries implications for how to improve it. This Executive Briefing provides a senior-level summary of an evidence-based way to think about retention. Related briefings focus on interim tactical, and long-term strategic, steps that can be taken to retain students to a successful conclusion of their course of study.