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What Is Student Retention in Higher Education?

The definition of retention in higher education is the process of keeping students enrolled in college, community colleges, or other institutions of higher education. It’s an important part of higher education because it affects graduation rates, which indicate how well an institution is performing for its students.

Key Points at a Glance

  • Student retention is as a balance between the number of students entering and leaving college each year.
  • The difference between college persistence and retention: The former follows a student who continues with his or her study regardless of which institution, the latter follows the annual enrollment of a student in the same institution.
  • Student retention impacts higher education institutions, most especially revenue-wise.
  • Having high student retention rates should only be a consequence of excellent education delivery and culture within a higher education institution.

One way to think about student retention is as a balance between the number of students entering and leaving college each year. If too many leave and not enough enter, then institutions will be considered to have low retention rates.

Importance

Higher education institutions would like to see more local and international students enroll in their respective institutions. Meanwhile, student retention is becoming an increasingly important part of the college experience. With lower enrollment rates and increased applicant competition, there is a need for effective student retention strategies.

Why is retention important in higher education?

Student retention impacts higher education institutions, most especially revenue-wise. It assures a consistent stream of annual revenue into school through the payment of tuition and fees. Aside from the financial benefits, student retention is also an encouraging sign of stability and prosperity which will benefit not only the staff but also the students who are already with the institution or who are still thinking about enrolling.

That is why educational institutions should focus on this important metric and should work to improve their school’s retention rate. Student retention strategies need to be discussed further.

Factors

There is a difference between college persistence and retention. The former follows a student who continues with his or her study regardless of which institution. The latter follows the annual enrollment of a student in the same institution.

With regard to improving student retention in higher education, there are several notable factors that should be considered:

Faculty Support

The faculty plays a huge role in student retention rates. When students believe that their teachers can help them succeed in their studies, the institution is likely to maintain a high student retention rate.

While the curriculum is also important, an instructor’s engagement and dedication to the subject matter at hand and the learning of a student is the most concrete sign of encouragement for local or international students.

When the students feel involved in the learning process, and when they feel like they are learning something in the process, thanks to their instructor, then this will likely lead to a strong retention rate.

Academic Skills

While faculty plays an important role in student retention, students themselves are also accountable for their own learning. Students who find themselves in a particular institution should have the academic skills needed to cope with the discussion and training at the higher education level. A student’s critical thinking and analytical skills are also important, most especially with regard to their chosen program of study.

While an institution’s admissions office plays a primary role in making sure students are well aware of the tasks and responsibilities ahead of them, the administration may also find an opportunity to build, maintain and promote student resources. These may come in the form of study centers, tutors or other support services that can help students cope and therefore improve student retention.

Financial Concerns

For most students, pursuing higher education is a costly decision. Not only do they have to consider tuition and fees, but also the finances to cover accommodation, living expenses etc. That said, it therefore not surprising to consider how financial concerns are even more magnified when one is an international student. 

Therefore, financial decisions are usually directly tied to an institution’s student retention rates. Can a student afford to continue paying tuition? Is a student still convinced that completing his or her studies in the said institution can help him or her with finances after graduating? Is a student confident in his or her career path and does he or she think that his or her current program has a promising return of investment?

Ultimately, an educational institution that can find creative pricing strategies can help students consider completing their studies and strengthen student retention.

Community Life

When students feel more connected to their institutions, there’s a greater likelihood that they will be staying and completing their studies. Even extracurricular activities like clubs, sports or study groups play a role in a student’s sense of belongingness. When these students are engaged in what they do, they are most likely to end up graduating in the same institution.

Conclusion

As touched upon earlier in this article, while persistence may fall more directly into a student’s responsibilities, retention is more the work for an educational institution. Perhaps, the issue of student retention has been more pronounced recently due to the pandemic. Because of this, institutions are looking into various student retention strategies in terms of improving student retention in higher education.

That said, higher education institutions around the world have turned to online learning and have, in effect, retained most, if not all of their students. While education technology will continue to improve education delivery beyond borders, institutions are encouraged to find creative ways on how to support their students from start to finish. Having high student retention rates should only be a consequence of excellent education delivery and culture within a higher education institution.

Data Souces:

Soika, B. What Is Student Retention, and Why Does It Matter? University of Southern California. Retrieved from https://rossier.usc.edu/what-is-student-retention-and-why-does-it-matter/

College Student Retention. State University. Retrieved from https://education.stateuniversity.com/pages/1863/College-Student-Retention.html

Tambone, A. (2012, November) Contributing Factors in Student Retention at Post-Secondary Institutions. Madison College. Retrieved from https://www.airum.org/assets/docs/2012-tambone%20whitepaper.pdf 

Hawkins, A. (2015, December) Involvement matters: The impact of involvement in student clubs and organization on student retention and persistence at urban community colleges. Texas Tech University. Retrieved from https://ttu-ir.tdl.org/handle/2346/66120

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