Solving the Retention Puzzle - Keeping Students Enrolled in Higher EducationJuly 16, 20182 min read
Colleges and universities around the country are struggling to keep first-year students engaged and enrolled year after year. Only 61% of first-year students who started in 2015 returned to the same institution in 2016, according to a report from the National Student Clearinghouse.
However, Southern Utah University has not only found a way to increase its first-year student retention, but continues to build momentum and excitement across campus. In just two years, from 2015-2017, the University went from a stagnant 64% retention rate to 71%, a record high for the institution.
The change didn’t happen overnight and took a team of dedicated professionals countless hours to figure out how to stop the declining numbers that dropped from 69% to 64% from 2008-2015.
Starting the process, Vice President for Student Affairs at Southern Utah University, Dr. Jared Tippets, began calling students to figure out why they left SUU.
“We found that they were struggling with finances, sense of belonging, schedules, stress, roommates, employment - the list goes on and on. After years of trying everything outlined in the literature, and still experiencing stagnant and declining retention rates, it was clear we had to try something different.”
Enlisting the help of Assistant Vice President for Student Affairs at SUU, Dr. Eric Kirby, the two went back to the drawing board.
“The feedback we received fueled a complete overhaul of our onboarding process, first-year experience, advising model, financial assistance, and peer-mentoring program,” said Kirby. “We shifted our thinking, adjusted our approach, and adopted a new paradigm.”
The pair distilled their retention strategy into their ASCEND model: Affordability, Support, Culture, Engagement, Nudges, and Data. This strategy was used to rethink and restructure the orientation program, campus engagement, and academic advising.
Dr. Jared Tippets and Dr. Eric Kirby are both committed to supporting all students as they learn to become successful and effective leaders on campus and in the community. They are available for an interview, simply visit their profiles.
Jared Tippets Vice President for Student Affairs
Specializing in student retention, organizational changes, and administration in higher education
Eric Kirby Assistant Vice President for Student Affairs for Completion & Student Success
Specializing in student success strategies, civil litigation, and student retention and first year experience in higher education