Is student retention an issue for your higher institution? Do you have a program in place to address retention? How do you think it’s working?

Student retention is a major issue for today’s colleges and universities. Student admissions departments work hard to get students into their schools, only to lose many of them throughout their four-year journey.

Addressing student retention isn’t a simple thing to do, however. Though many higher institutions have programs in place for addressing retention, they are not using the data to determine which programs are most effective and why.

Disconnect Between Students and Administration

The purpose of using data is to better understand why students are leaving your campus. Are they having trouble maintaining their grades? Are they dealing with social issues such as gender or ethnicity? Is it possible that they only intended to take a few classes and transfer in a year or two?

The reasons why students choose to leave a college or university are complex. Some of the most common include class availability, lack of degree programs and an original intention to transfer. Administration, on the other hand, cites financial issues, personal issues and academic performance as being the leading causes. It’s apparent that there is a disconnect between students and administration. This is why data matters.

Importance of Data for Student Retention

When you better understand what is driving some students away, you can create an accurate profile for an at-risk student. Based on this profile, you can put together programs that address these issues.

For example, you may define an at-risk student as being someone who has a low high school GPA and is a first-generation student. If you break down the data, you’re essentially looking at a student who struggled academically in high school and may not have the necessary support at home. Providing support for a student like this ensures they keep up with their grades and get the extra help they need.


In the end, these small steps toward collecting the right data and creating stronger retention programs are worthwhile. The right programs can help your institution save money and surpass your enrollment goals. Generalizations or assumptions are not enough to drive retention programs. You need real data to fully understand what can help students enjoy their time on your campus.