In a meeting today, I mentioned some of the top reasons students fail to stay in and complete their education. One colleague asked me to elaborate. This post stems from that.
This is a list of the Characteristics/Factors that have the greatest effect on student attrition:
- Level of student preparation for college-level work
- Student study skills
- Adequacy of personal financial resources
- Level of student commitment to earning a degree
- Level of student motivation to succeed
- Student family responsibilities
- Level of job demands on students
- Student low socioeconomic status
- Amount of financial aid available to students
- Student personal coping skills
This comes from the most recent What Works in Student Retention report created by ACT and comes from research at community colleges (they do separate reports for 4-year institutions).
Overwhelmingly what research across the board tells us is simple: students drop or stop out of college because they encounter what they consider to be an insurmountable obstacle, which is exactly what so many of the things on that list are. We also know that most often the obstacle seems insurmountable because the students feel little to no connection (or sense of belonging) to the college. Students who engage with faculty, staff, and peers and make use of available campus resources are, thus, more likely to stay in and finish school.
So the questions for each of us employed at a community college are these: what can I do to help students overcome the potential obstacles to their success? How can I help foster a sense of connection and belonging? How can I encourage students to develop working relationships with faculty, staff, and peers? How can I encourage them to make use of all the campus resources we have available?