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We take a look at the importance of student retention in higher education and K-12. We also examine the reasons for student retention and the positive and negative impacts.

Definition

Student retention is a hot topic because every stakeholder, from parents to policymakers, looks at student retention to measure a school’s performance. Think about student retention as student success or successful completion. For example, a 2014 study showed that parents in Chicago wanted to send their teenagers to charter schools because they graduated 7-11% more students than public schools.

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In simple terms, the student retention rate was high because students dropped out or withdrew at a lower rate. Student retention is also important for universities. Potential students will want to attend a college that has a high number of students graduating because it illustrates student success and perhaps strong academic support.Keep in mind that student retention and grade retention are not the same.

Grade retention is when students repeat a grade. Student retention is a process of ensuring student success or graduation. Look at student retention as the overall picture.

Reasons for Retention

Student retention is not all up to the school. It’s a combination of retention strategies, personal issues, and circumstantial factors.

Here is a breakdown.Examples of retention strategies are:

  • Procedures to identify at-risk students early on
  • Early intervention for at-risk students
  • Having a student-centered culture
  • Having a high quality teaching staff, curriculum, academic support
  • Having retention programs

Some things can negatively affect retention regardless of the quality or actions of the school. Personal factors, like low self-confidence, poor attitude toward education, poor study behaviors or problem-solving abilities is just a few examples.On a grander scale, circumstantial factors like ethnicity, socio-economic status, finances, and family issues can also reap their effects.

Positive Effects of Retaining Students

Because student retention is a measure of school performance, one positive effect of student retention is attracting new students. Let’s examine the competitive market of higher education.

When the economy is flourishing, college attendance drops because people are finding jobs. On top of that, the rising cost of earning a degree makes it more difficult for universities to attract students. This is where student retention plays a critical role. If people decide that a degree is worth the risks of accruing large student loans and missing out on current job opportunities, they will want a school with a high retention rate to justify taking those risks. The prospective student wants to know: Which school increases my chance of graduating?Beyond attracting students, high student retention indicates other positive effects. Nationally, one out of three college freshmen never makes it to the sophomore year but the dropout or withdrawal rates are not spread equally across campuses. With these odds, a university with a high retention rate must have tackled some or most of the factors mentioned previously.

Their efforts increase the number of graduates, student satisfaction, and the number of students returning for higher degrees, resulting in stronger financial gain.

Negative Effects of Retention

Retaining students definitely has its benefits, but there are some not-so-good consequences if schools put their students through just for the sake of the numbers. Let’s look at K-12, for example. Letting students advance without having the necessary skills and knowledge is one reason why the No Child Left Behind Act is so controversial. That act ensured that schools are ranked and receive resources based on their student retention rate. Therefore, the pressure to move students along can negatively impact the struggling student and program quality. The student will continue to struggle and underperform, causing problems and creating a distraction in the classroom.

Lesson Summary

Student retention indicates how well a school ensures academic success or completion. Stakeholders use it to measure a school’s performance. The internal promotion of student retention is useful for improving programs, curriculum, teaching staff, and academic support.

However, there are personal and circumstantial factors related to dropouts or withdrawals. The negative effect of student retention is advancing students who are not academically ready.

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