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ERIC Number: ED520817
Record Type: Non-Journal
Publication Date: 2011-Mar
Pages: 24
Abstractor: ERIC
Reference Count: 44
How Four-Year Colleges and Universities Organize Themselves to Promote Student Persistence: The Emerging National Picture
College Board Advocacy & Policy Center
As leading measures of student success and institutional quality, persistence and graduation rates are intensely debated at education conferences, institutional meetings and legislative sessions (Adelman, 1999; American Association of State Colleges and Universities [AASCU], 2002; Gold & Albert, 2006; Perna & Thomas, 2006; Tinto & Pusser, 2006; U.S. Department of Education, 2006). Most of the relevant research that might be cited in these debates has focused on the extent to which these outcomes are influenced by students' college experiences and characteristics like academic preparation (e.g., Astin, 1993; Braxton, Sullivan & Johnson 1997; Nora & Cabrera, 1996; Strauss & Volkwein, 2004; Tinto, 1993; Tinto, 2006-2007). These factors are certainly important to individuals' understanding of persistence and graduation rates--as are such factors as national and regional economic contexts as well as students' and families' access to and navigation of financial aid. At least as important as these factors, however, is the institution's role in student persistence and completion. Yet the efforts of institutions to boost these measures of student success through their policies and practices have, until now, been relatively unexamined and underresearched--and remain poorly understood. Research has not yet adequately addressed this key question: How do institutions organize themselves and what actions do they take to improve student persistence and completion? To help fill this gap, the College Board Study on Student Retention has been collecting and analyzing an extensive set of data on institutions' student retention policies and practices, ranging from coordinating and assessing retention efforts to providing services and resources to enhance persistence and graduation. Drawing on findings from a nationwide survey of four-year postsecondary institutions, this report offers insights into the nature, extent and effects of institutions' efforts to improve their students' success as reflected in persistence and graduation rates. This report presents data for comparison by institutional type as well as actionable findings colleges and universities can employ in their efforts to increase persistence and graduation at their institutions. One of the survey's most important findings is that institutions are, indeed, making efforts to improve student retention. Most of the institutions that participated in the survey reported they regularly analyzed their retention rates, most also had an administrator charged with the responsibilities of a retention coordinator, and many had a retention committee--clear indications that these institutions were searching for ways to increase persistence. A majority of the participating campuses also had early warning systems and required first-year students to meet with advisers at least once per term. Yet the evidence from this survey raises serious questions, explored in this report, about whether the resources institutions are devoting to these efforts are sufficient to meet the complex challenge of improving student persistence and graduation rates. For example, among the responding institutions, on average only a little over one-third full-time equivalent (FTE) was formally allocated to the retention coordinator role, and these administrators usually had little authority or resources to implement new program initiatives. Looking at these survey findings--presented by institution type as well as in totals across all institutions--will give campus administrators a sharper, contextualized perspective on how their institution's policies and practices compare with those of similar institutions and will provide both the data as well as the impetus to inform and focus their campus efforts. These findings also provide national comparative data on public institutions that state policymakers need to evaluate institutions' good-faith efforts toward state policy goals. (Contains 4 tables and 6 figures.) [This report is from the College Board Study on Student Retention by the Project on Academic Success at Indiana University and the Center for Enrollment Research, Policy and Practice at the University of Southern California.]
College Board Advocacy & Policy Center. 45 Columbus Avenue, New York, NY 10023. Tel: 212-713-8165; Fax: 212-713-8143; e-mail:; email:; email:; Web site:
Publication Type: Reports - Evaluative
Education Level: Higher Education
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: College Board Advocacy & Policy Center