October 23 2023

By Destiny Harper-Lane, DBA

How is your institution generating intensity around understanding strategies that can drive fall-to-spring persistence and ultimately, retention?

3-D Retention & Persistence Strategies

The outcome of a fulfilling student experience is sustained persistence and timely graduation. While the overall national rate for fall 2021 first-time students returning for a second year to any institution increased to 75.7%, only 67.2% of those students actually returned to their initial institution for their second year (National Student Clearinghouse, 2023).

Improving fall-to-spring persistence often requires a closer look at processes, cultural norms, and systems that impact the student experience. 

As student success leaders, I imagine us shifting from a passive, two-dimensional approach to a proactive 3-D concept that engages the entire campus community from faculty to staff to leadership to community members and beyond. Together we can establish robust practices for clearing registration barriers, minimizing surprises around student intent—or inability—to return to the institution and persistence can naturally increase.

Inclusively Considering our Students across populations

How sensitive is your institution to persistence disparities of specific student populations, such as students who are Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC), who persist at much lower rates compared to their white counterparts due to reduced sense of belonging and support services that extend beyond the traditional institutional structure (Wilson, 2022)?

To mobilize your campus community around collaborative, inclusive student persistence work, consider these four tips to ensure all students across demographics are equipped with the support they need to pave access to a seamless return to campus the following semester.

1. Create Proactive and Prioritized Interventions

To better understand challenges that influence persistence, institutions must first evaluate which students they consistently engage and if their efforts are directed to the right populations. Oftentimes, students most likely to leave come from underrepresented or specific populations who need additional support navigating policies and systems, yet students who are most visible or amongst the majority may receive more support. Institutions should get to know their students who have the greatest potential to return each semester, then actively guide them through meaningful touch points. Using data to identify historical themes and focused student cohorts can allow campus partners to connect preemptively in intentional ways before issues occur, offering students who need intervention most an opportunity to overcome registration or academic obstacles before it is too late.

2. Develop a Culture of Collaboration and Communication

Increasing persistence requires individuals, teams, and groups across campus to be grounded in a declared, shared commitment to student success and communication. Operating with unified, consistent, and transparent messaging reduces confusion and reinforces the institution’s desire for students to succeed. Department leaders should regularly connect to consider ways to streamline student communication across all modalities to reduce saturation and increase effectiveness with student engagement. For example, semesterly cross-college meetings with key stakeholders to discuss programmatic and communication plans for the up-coming term can create opportunities for synergy. The institution must also leverage tools that meet students where they are (e.g., messaging in residence halls, texts, athletic coaches’ communication to athletes, etc.) and develop processes to help the campus deploy key initiatives and campaigns before and during critical registration periods.

3. Execute Personalized, Solution-Based Strategies

Each member of the campus community has the potential to be a retention agent for a student in need. Maximizing personal relationships for outreach and assistance keeps individual student needs at the core and provides opportunities to build connection and value. Cultivating a culture committed to customized intervention allows campus partners to understand the unique challenges of a student through collaborative work with others. Referrals and action from faculty or staff most connected to the student can provide timely wrap around support that solves specific concerns impacting retention. To seamlessly document and share helpful information gleaned from these efforts, institutions must invest in an effective technology platform to implement these specialized strategies. 

4. Practice Advanced Planning and Continuous Process Improvement 

Deploying effective, data-informed strategies is essential for intervening with students who are at risk for attrition. Activating a plan that considers past learnings and assesses the impact of practices used semesterly allows campus partners to identify gaps and improve the student experience for subsequent semesters. A concerted, cross-campus approach can be adapted to review what did and did not work, as well as what actions can be adjusted or enhanced moving forward. Through the use of a case management system, campus partners can easily access data identifying leading and lagging indicators that can improve intervention strategies for future delivery.

Driving FaLl-To-Spring Persistence On Your Campus

Driving fall-to-spring persistence can require a significant change within the systems like clearance and intervention. Bringing the campus community along can radically improve outcomes resulting in retaining students and an increased fiscal viability for the institution.

Students thrive when they remain at the center and receive the guidance they need, increasing their desire to return each semester. Students are why we are here, and everyone within the campus community can be pivotal in a student's success. Consider these questions as you navigate fall persistence and intentionally meeting your most at-risk student populations.

Questions for Campuses: Fall-To-Spring Persistence

  • What systems and processes does your campus collaboratively utilize to meet students where they are, and encourage fall-to-spring persistence?
  • Who are your most at-risk populations and what resources are you dedicating towards their success?
  • How clear and integrated is campus communication around student interventions and supports?
  • What strategies have worked for your campus and what strategies have given you opportunities for adapting?
  • If you could increase your fall-to-spring persistence, what could it mean for your entire campus?

Looking For More Student Success resources?

Visit our Moving The Needle Page to learn more about how Credo supports students and everyone on campus who works toward their success. 



Continue Reading