The retention process used by colleges of higher learning should aim at getting each student to completion and graduation quickly, efficiently and work force ready. The process should be optimized for a step by step higher retention rate, and also straightforward enough for a higher graduation rate.
The purpose of this paper is to high light the previous challenges on graduation, current challenges and to find the way forward on this issue.
The educational attainment of the U.S. population is similar to that of many other industrialized countries with the vast majority of the population having completed secondary education and a rising number of college graduates that outnumber high school dropouts. As a whole, the population of the United States is spending more years in formal educational programs. As with income, levels differ by race, age, household configuration and geography.
Overall the households and demographics featuring the highest educational attainment in the United States are also among those with the highest household income and wealth. Thus, while the population as a whole is proceeding further in formal educational programs, income and educational attainment remain highly correlated. Thus, there is a reason for an attention to be centered on graduation and at what rate it is going and to further increase the rate.
The successes and failures of the citizens in the United States of America are often attributed to, and measured by, the last level of achievement they attained in school. Employers offering job opportunities in more prestigious fields place considerable emphasis on previous education. Therefore, a student’s level of education significantly impacts their level of success in the workforce. The retention process used by colleges of higher learning should aim at getting each student to completion and graduation quickly, efficiently and ready for the work force. The process should be optimized for a step by step higher retention rate, and also straightforward enough for a higher graduation rate. Colleges of higher learning has been facing serious graduation challenges, and it has been noticed that the same problems are still very present with minimal change. The aim of this write up is to identify those previous challenges as compared to the current ones and seek out solution(s) for them and try to prevent any future occurrences in order to map out a way forward towards a higher graduation rate. Drawing on insights from Human development & Family studies, and Human resources development, this study will dive into the issues and challenges affecting the graduation rates in the country, and provide some possible solutions to improve the said rates amongst higher education institutions. Some questions that will be tackled include; what are the steps to graduation, what are the factors limiting student’s success, the factors affecting graduation rates, and also how to improve graduation rates. Answering these questions require insights from multiple disciplines and concentrations that provides a better understanding. One difficulty in evaluating retention rates is that it is necessary to distinguish between students that should truly be considered drop- outs and students that had no intention of remaining in an academic program through completion. Requiring insights from multiple perspectives to construct new conclusions and resolutions to the complex interdisciplinary problem. If the current low graduation rates are ignored, colleges face loss of funding and employment rates may remain dangerously high. The economy as a whole will continue to stagnate unless Americans are able to successfully complete the programs that will provide them with the skills employers are seeking.
SOME RESEARCH QUESTIONS
What were the previous, current and future challenges of graduation?
What are the steps to graduation?
Factors limiting the success of students.
Factors affecting graduation rate?
One of the most pressing issues facing American universities is the number of students who fail to graduate. Nearly one out of five four-year institutions graduate fewer than one-third of its first-time, full-time degree-seeking first-year students within six years (Carey, 2004). Although there are various explanations for attrition, students often leave for personal reasons, job demands, dissatisfaction with the academic environment, and incongruence with campus values (Kuh, Kinzie, Schuh, Whitt, & Associates, 2005). Low graduation rates: (a) cost universities scarce resources; (b) weaken the ability to meet educational objectives; and (c) reflect the university’s inability to meet the educational, social, and emotional needs of students (Mangold, Bean, Adams, Schwab, & Lynch, 2002).
Retention of these students leads to graduation, and should be a key concern for our country and our universities. The advantages of a college degree are critical in three ways: first is the well-known employment and salary structure associated with different levels of education, second is the less well known relationship between parents’ educational status and the chances that their children will graduate and third is the enormous intellectual gain experienced by college graduates who then go on to contribute to the economic and civic growth of our country. Yet for all of these advantages graduation remains low. At public four year institutions, only 52.4% graduate within six years at the institution where they began as First-Time-in-College (FTIC) students. This has been an ongoing problem and if care is not taking, it is still going to appear in the future of many colleges. By taking into account a broader array of social, economic and psychological characteristics of incoming students, as well as an institution’s mission, colleges and universities could more precisely assess how effective they are at moving students toward completion of their degrees over four, five and six years. The following four literature reviews attempt to summarize the itemized the way forward to increase graduation rate.
Several things are thought to be correlated with college graduation. Some examples from a number of sources, and research article by Creighton (2010) regarding this issue focused on four steps: a) pre-entry attributes, b) goals and commitments, c) institutional experience, and d) personal and normative integration.
In the research article, Creighton noted that, high school ranking and student perception of their social adjustment on campus were strong predictors of retention. She stated that, high school grades also predicts retention and in a longitudinal study by Good, Halpin, and Halpin (2002) found that a pre-college program for engineering students resulted in significantly higher retention rates when compared to student who did not participate in the pre-college program.
Goals and commitments was another step that help graduation, and it was noted that student’s perception of social support facilitates an increased commitment to the institution and served to help students feel that their goals and interest are congruent with the university’s academic mission. Thus, universities should continue to examine their philosophy and mission, always assess the institution’s to work with divers students, assess student’s academic and social readiness, schedule early visits to institutions, establish rapport with students, and develop an ongoing mentoring program.
Institutional experience: in a study on student that attended schools that were dominated by other colors, found that, student of other colors reported discriminations, isolation, and lack of support services did not contribute positively to their learning. Thus, the development of special support program for them will enhance their retention. Also, there should be diversity training for all faculty and staff, the hiring of faculty and staff of their color, increased faculty-student interaction, the initiation of counseling program specifically for these students, and finally opportunity to assist in planning campus program will go a long way in increasing graduation rates in all institutions.
The research shows that the extent to which student is involved on campus, acclimated to the campus academic culture, and connected socially to various component of the university community to be a reasonably strong predictor of student retention that leads to graduation rate increase.
Student success while in school has highly been attributed to increase in graduation rate. In a Human development & Family studies research article by Kokemuller published in Seattlepi (2016), stated that the following are among the factors influencing student’s success, and can lead to increase in graduation if attention is directed towards these hindrances.
Family and Peer Support
No matter how independent the student, successfully transitioning into college often begins with strong family support. For some students, financial support is an important aspect of getting into and starting school. Emotional support is often more critical, as students rely on parents, siblings and other family members to coach them on the transition and listen when times are tough. In the school setting, a strong peer network and social involvement become integral. Students need to feel that they belong and can rely on other students to encourage them and hold them accountable for work.
The requirements for out-of-class work time, reading and studying typically ramp up significantly from high school to college. Students who got by or did well in high school with minimal effort can flounder without effective academic habits. Keeping a schedule, blocking out study time, going to bed on time, attending all classes, using academic support resources and meeting with professors as needed are all effective academic habits. While you can get coaching, and develop these habits as a new student, good academic habits shaped during high school give you a strong predisposition for success.
Balance is often the operative word to college student success. Balancing the responsibilities of being an independent adult with the benefits of freedom from parents and home rules is critical. Managing money and making wise financial decisions can help a college student avoid stress. Doing laundry, maintaining proper hygiene, exercising and eating well, and getting adequate sleep are all life skill areas that factor into student success. Students who easily get wrapped up in excessive social opportunities, drinking and drugs may struggle to get to class and perform well academically.
A college student’s success or failure is often impacted by the collective result of decisions made prior to, and at the start of college. This begins with selecting the right school, program and classes that pique the student’s interest and motivate him to study. At school, choosing to study for a test or complete a project rather than going to the latest party is key. Choosing the right opportunities for social involvement and peer relationships can contribute to a support system and academic success.
Report sheds light on factors influencing college graduation by Caralee Adams on November 29, 2011 as gender been a huge factor in graduation rates, and the gap in completion has widened in the past decade. Now, 43.8 percent of women earn a degree after four years, compared to 32.9 percent of men. The largest gender gaps are at public four-year colleges, where 45.3 percent of men vs. 52.7 percent of women complete.
Also, it was noted that, all institutions have difficulty getting first-generation college students to the finish line. After four years, 27.4 percent of first-generation college students earn a degree, while students whose parents have college degrees have a graduation rate of 42.1 percent. The gap is widest at Catholic four-year universities and public universities, which enroll the majority of first-generation students.
And a huge discovery in the distinct racial disparities in completion. Asian-Americans had the highest four-year graduation rates at 44.9 percent, followed by whites, 42.6 percent; Latinos, 25.8 percent; African-Americans, 21 percent; and American Indians, 16.8 percent.
Methodology and Recommendations
Based on earlier research, graduation is based on higher rate of student retention, and it relies heavily on the institutions and faculties; their ability and methodology of maintaining a higher retention rate is influenced by student interaction and integration into the culture of the institution and how the whole system is set up in other to help student to remain in school and cross the finish line.
Thus, it highly recommended that, institutions should understand that, setting up a culture that will be flexible enough for student to easily adapt to and an environment that is well accommodating and highly welcoming are some instrument that keeps students and makes the have a sense of belonging. Taking from what President J. Young did with the environment at Elon University, it brought about much increase in all areas to the school as we read in “Transforming A College” by George Keller.
An interdisciplinary in-depth investigation is therefore required for this complex case, in a quality study employing Human resource development research principles on how to improve graduation rates. However, there are two clear options:
1. Incorporate contextual information to make graduation rates more meaningful. There is an abundance of data documenting that the characteristics of beginning students are strongly correlated with their likelihood of graduating from college within a six-year time frame or graduating at all. Put simply, the data document that student success in college depend largely on (1) academic preparation and college readiness and (2) various aspects of socioeconomic status. To derive the most meaning from graduation rate measures within the GRS framework, it is possible to use statistical methods that separate institutional and non-institutional factors impacting student success. This will allow campus and system leaders and policymakers to focus more directly on how well institutions are doing with the mix of students they enroll.
And these three approaches have been found very useful and reliable:
o Actual-to-expected graduation rate model.
o Actual-to-peer graduation rate model.
o Disaggregated graduation rate approach.
2. Move beyond the Graduation Rate Survey (GRS) Framework to better reflect contemporary student behavior. If institutional leaders and policymakers want a more comprehensive understanding of the full dimensions of institutional performance, they need accountability measures that correct the shortcomings of GRS. New tools are needed to analyze and communicate a wider range of student outcomes and new means to capture them.
a. New methodologies. In the mid-1990s, (AASCU), the American Association of Community Colleges, and the National Association of State Universities and Land-Grant Colleges sponsored the Joint Commission on Accountability Reporting (JCAR) that proposed a new template for accountability reporting. JCAR went beyond GRS in several dimensions. First, while GRS considers the simple graduation rate as the only indicator of student success, JCAR considers that students are successfully advancing if (1) they have graduated, (2) they have transferred, or (3) they are still enrolled at the institution.
b. New means. In order to implement a JCAR or similar model that goes beyond the current scope of GRS, comprehensive data systems are needed that cross institution, system, and state boundaries and that track students for longer periods of time. Much progress has been made in this direction, but much more needs to be done.
Whichever method would be taken highly depends on the process of gaining access to increase in graduation and to avoid any future problems, but general research steps have been decided. Policymakers to establish relevant student success measures (including definition of purpose and policy application) by working collaboratively with the higher education community. These should include student graduation and progression indicators as well as indicators of student learning. Audit state and system data infrastructures, focusing specifically on existing data gaps, remedies for those gaps, and potential costs and benefits of proposed remedies. And to identify and evaluate policy levers significantly impacting student access and success (early outreach, admissions, financial aid, transfer/articulation, etc.), with an emphasis on policies that may be working at cross-purposes.
And also, Presidents and Chancellors to assess the institution’s or system’s past, current, and projected student population, focusing on the percentage of students presenting one or more risk factors for non-completion and the nature of those risk factors. Perform institutional and system graduation rate calculations using the HERI/CIRP and Education Trust models and compare with the institution and/or system GRS rate. Audit institutional and state data systems, focusing on the identification of untapped existing capacity and options for enhancement or improvement. Evaluate institutional and/or system applications of student success data (including student learning), with an emphasis on how the institution performs relative to peers and exemplars. If the institution is performing better than expected, identify the reasons for this success, commit to continued investment in these programs or factors, and share the findings. If the institution is average or under-performing, seek explanations and ways to improve, and develop and share proposed strategies for improvement.
The growing focus on the efficacy of the postsecondary student pipeline makes it clear that the graduation rate is here to stay as a higher education outcome measure. In light of that reality and recent advances in research and technology regarding student enrollment and progression, the time has come for a concerted effort to enhance and improve this measure. State colleges and universities must be prepared to play a leadership role in such an effort, as they have much to gain from a fuller picture of student completion and much to lose from the continuation of an incomplete, simplistic status quo.
Students and faculty of the colleges around the country provided constructive feedback on the effectiveness of the retention program implemented at their individual school. Some programs include New Student Orientation, which introduces students to the school’s in class and web-based classroom management tools, mandatory Student Success courses and mandatory academic advising. The feedback from the faculty and the students revealed one area that is succeeding in helping students persist to graduation and two areas where improvement is necessary.
Student surveys indicated that the faculty is an area in which the school is finding success in improving student persistence. Students reported that instructors are the most significant factor in being able to persist in their academic program. While relationships between students and faculty is a positive outcome, there are also areas that require attention. The surveys reveal that both groups feel that students have reasonable computer literacy skills, but that faculty can identify areas for improvement. These areas include submitting assignments and taking tests on Black Board. Perhaps the school could reevaluate the effectiveness and presentation of those portions of the New Student Orientation. Faculty could also incorporate mini-lessons on the use of Black Board into their course curriculum so that students receive the information more than once.
Another area that was noted for improvement was academic advising. Students expressed that they did not feel they were being given the guidance that they needed to be successful in their academic programs. Students reported that when they experienced challenges with their academics, the school advising office did not help to alleviate their frustrations, but only made it worse. Colleges could incorporate regular and mandatory meetings between students and advisors that extend throughout the students’ academic careers. This strategy has been shown to be effective in other programs directed at increasing retention rates, particularly amongst students shown to have difficulty persisting in higher education (Napolitano and Wu, 2010). Increased contact between academic advisors and students will also help to foster greater social integration for students in the academic community of their school, which is a factor shown to impact retention rates (Wang and Wu, 2004).
Improving student persistence in higher education is essential, not only for the students themselves, but for the entire American economy which currently reports very high unemployment. Education is a key factor in obtaining employment and the better educated the workforce, the stronger the American economy will become.