What Type of Retention Strategy is Right for You?

First Year Experience, Common Reading Topics, Learning Communities, Learning Centers: These are some of the strategies that have entered the psyche of IHEs around the nation. It is not surprising we want to adopt these tested strategies because, after all, that’s what we do in Higher Education. Deploy, test, measure, and then improve.

There is a caveat with deciding on a strategy without first assessing the causes that lead to attrition. Do not choose a strategy solely based on its potential for success, but instead incorporate your knowledge of how your institution works before putting a plan into action. 

Here is an approach to consider before you strategize on the area of retention: 

  • Write down the desired retention improvement
  • Document the reasons for attrition
  • Select a focus area
  • Design a plan and measurements for success
  • Select a well-known plan that can fit your designed plan

Consider the following example:

  • Desired improvement:
    • Increase Freshman Retention by 2%
  • Reasons for attrition:
    • Home sickness
    • Health issues
    • Financial issues
    • Preparedness for college
    • Social distractions
  • Selected area of focus:
    • Home sickness
  • Plan for improvement:
    • Keep Freshman busy, especially in the very first week of class
    • Make sure students have a place to go and a community to turn to when they feel lonely
    • Create opportunities for students to make friends
    • Engage Freshman in community service
    • Give Freshman something to look forward to
    • Prepare parents
    • Etc.
  • Selected well-known plan:
    • (This is up to you!)

We obviously don’t mean to insult your knowledge and experience. However, ask yourself honestly when the last time your institution started a retention program based on an internal process like the example provided above? The most likely scenario is that an institution simply chooses between programs such as the ones listed in the beginning of this article.

A process of self-discovery is important to all of us, even if we are only doing it to keep ourselves sharp and in-check.