Community colleges have unique needs and challenges that they face each semester. As a space that draws many students from different backgrounds, many community colleges struggle with retaining students. However, you can boost retention rates at your campus by using smarter, efficient efforts like predictive analytics.
Student Retention at Community Colleges
While community college is a great, affordable resource that can offer higher education to many people, many community colleges struggle with maintaining student retention. Students may transfer to other institutions or fail to complete their degrees. Some common reasons include:
- Costs: Community college might be more affordable than four-year higher education institutions, but students often drop out because of various financial reasons. In addition to tuition and fees, students may also have trouble paying for expensive textbooks each semester. Because community college attracts people of many different backgrounds, students may have other expenses like rent or mortgage, healthcare, childcare, and transportation that they might need to prioritize over their education.
- Work and childcare: Many community college students are only part-time students, balancing their education with parenting or working. Because of this, the unpredictability of their work and childcare situations can cause students to drop out before completing their degrees. Students may need to stay home to care for their children or take on a second job to make ends meet.
- Difficulty and preparedness: Higher education requires unique skills that students might struggle with as they transition. Whether coming from high school, the workforce, or other backgrounds, students might feel unprepared for courses or their difficulty level. Low grades or self-confidence can lead students to drop out.
- Lack of resources: Some students drop out because they are unaware of their college's services. They might be struggling with something specific, like academic performance, where a tutoring center can help them. Additionally, some feel that services are lacking and unhelpful — many students find academic advising at community colleges too general and impersonal.
- Connection to campus: While students go to college primarily to complete their education, many are also looking for a specific experience and have social expectations. Campuses with little social activities or involvement can make it hard for students to connect with other students and feel like they have a place at college, causing them to drop out.
With such diverse reasons for students leaving college before finishing their degree, it can be challenging for community colleges to determine where to start when trying to improve student retention. However, understanding the common reasons students drop out can help administration begin drafting effective student retention solutions for their school.
4 Ways to Increase Student Retention at Community Colleges
When working to improve student retention, community colleges have many options. Because students have so many reasons for leaving behind their education, campuses can make several efforts to meet the needs of their different communities on campus and optimize their student retention efforts.
1. Highlight Scholarships and Financial Aid
Because costs are such an important factor for students, advertising how your community college and other resources can support their financial needs can help ensure students can continue to afford their education until they graduate. You can highlight the scholarships and stipends your institution offers, so students know what's available and how to apply.
You can further help students by connecting them with other resources for financial aid. You can link them to popular scholarships and aids that they might qualify for and how to access the applications and due dates. If there are stipends for specific costs, like textbooks, you can advertise those at strategic times to help students struggling with particular expenses.
2. Showcase Available Student Services
Many students are unaware of what's available to them on campus. Many schools offer several helpful resources that aim to strengthen student abilities and help them adjust to college. You can help connect students with the resources they need to have a successful college career and make it to graduation by highlighting all services. Some services to highlight include:
- Academic support, tutoring, and study skills
- Career planning and job placement
- Financial aid
You can also take the opportunity to strengthen services where students find them lacking. You can survey students to see how they feel about the various services you offer to know which ones to advertise and strengthen. You might find yourself redesigning your advising program, or students might say they are unaware of the financial services offered. Understanding what students need and want can help you direct your actions to fit their expectations.
3. Host Events for All Students
When students feel like they belong on campus and with your college's community, they are less likely to drop out or transfer to other schools. Catering to the desired social experience can help fulfill the needs of many students. Consider hosting a club fair at the beginning of each semester to highlight how students can get involved on campus.
Social activities are essential, but students are also gaining an education to help develop their careers. You can help show students you care about their graduation and careers by hosting job fairs and bringing in local employers to help students of all years find jobs and internships.
You can also create events to help specific groups connect on campus. Some people you can host events for include:
- Transfer students
- First-year students
- Working students
Creating events that target specific groups can help highlight the services these students might need to help them succeed and graduate. Further, these events can help connect students so they feel less alone and see there is a community for them on campus.
4. Use Predictive Analytics to Increase Student Retention
Predictive analytics can help drive your student retention solutions to prevent students from leaving before they graduate. While many community colleges might recognize that they have students who are at risk of dropping out before graduation, it can be challenging to find them.
This preventative measure calculates your student's risk level and uses that to drive college engagement and interactions to help connect them with the resources they need to succeed. For example, predictive analytics can find students with lower GPAs or test scores from courses and send them information about academic success services before their grades get too low. When you use predictive analytics, you can make more specified outreach efforts that target students who need it.
Watermark's Student Success & Engagement solution can offer your community college a predictive analytics student retention solution. In one case study, one school saw a 6% increase in student retention after 18 months of using predictive analytics and Student Success & Engagement. It draws from students' personal and academic information to highlight at-risk students, so administration can target their actions. Using automized efforts and requiring no manual data entry, your teams can efficiently boost your school's retention.
Request a Demo of Student Success & Engagement
Determining how to increase student retention in college is a common goal for many administrative teams. Your community college can streamline your retention efforts by using predictive analytics and smart solutions, like Watermark's Student Success & Engagement. Our solution highlights your students' needs, so you can transform them into automized actions that better help them.
Request a demo today and discover how we can help you retain students at your community college.
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