From the Non-Returner Survey to the Retention Survey Part I. . Why students leave. W. Allen Richman, Ph.D. Laura Ariovich, Ph.D. Nicole Long, Ph.D. Presentation goals. Introduce the Non-returner survey (mandate & history) Show what’s behind stable enrollment patterns
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Why students leave
W. Allen Richman, Ph.D.
Laura Ariovich, Ph.D.
Nicole Long, Ph.D.
Introduce the Non-returner survey (mandate & history)
Show what’s behind stable enrollment patterns
Propose a revamped methodology to survey non-returners
Present survey results & next steps to reduce the non-returner rate
All MD Community Colleges are required by the State to survey non-returning students, defined as those students who attended college in the Spring but did not return or graduate in the following fall.
Survey asks students to:
State their educational goals for attending PGCC
Report whether they achieved them
Indicate what factors they perceive as reasons for not returning
Comment on how PGCC could better serve their educational needs
Random sample of 1,000 non-returners
Students would receive questionnaire by mail
Students who didn’t reply would receive a second mailing
1.7 to 3% response rate (between 84 & 160 respondents)
Electronic questionnaire sent by email to all non-returners with valid email addresses
Four reminders sent to those who did not reply (sent on different days and times)
Initial invitation & all reminders signed by PGCC President
Use of an incentive
964 students responded (15.4% response rate)
High quality data:
Even if only the three initial questions were set as “mandatory,” 96% of respondents completed the full survey.
65% of respondents chose to answer the final, open-ended question: “In what ways could PGCC better serve your educational needs?”
To sum up:
48% of students came to PGCC for an associate’s degree. A smaller percentage came for transfer (26%) or for other reasons (26%).
Students who came for transfer or for other reasons were significantly more likely to complete their goals.
Among those students who didn’t report transferring or having achieved their academic goal, the factors identified by most as a “major reason” for leaving were not having money to enroll (43%), personal problems (38%), being unhappy with one’s academic progress (25%), and being unhappy with the College’s services for students (25%).
Stage 1: Preliminary review of all comments and formulation of tentative categories.
Stage 2: Coding of comments based on tentative categories and reformulation of categories to achieve better fit with the data.
Stage 3: Recombination and elimination of categories based on the type of comments and the number of quotes included in each category. Recoding of all comments using the final set of categories.
The analysis resulted in four major classes of comments, three of them further classified into sub-categories.
Percentage of all comments: 28%
Problems with advising/financial aid: “Advisors tell you to go to the website, but you need more help. I ended up taking classes that don’t count for transfer.”
Problems with faculty: “Some professors, like Professor X, just tell you to look in the book. They won’t try to help you understand.”
General problems with college responsiveness: “College employees are not well informed or think that someone else will assist you.”
Percentage of all comments: 21%
Locations, times, days, and frequency: “The classes I needed to finish were not available on evenings or weekends. Had to find another school.”
More online or hybrid classes: “The online class I wanted was full. Offer more online or hybrid classes.”
Affordability: “More grants for Hospitality Management students. I have a decent job but it’s not enough.”
To sum up:
65% of respondents answered the open-ended question: “In what ways could PGCC better serve your educational goals?” These comments were coded resulting in the identification of three classes of comments:
Positive (26%) – generally happy with the college
Lack of college responsiveness (28%) – dissatisfied with the level or quality of support in academic advising, financial aid, the classroom, or the college as a whole
Lack of course availability / affordability (21%) - dissatisfied with course availability or concerned about affordability and the need for more financial assistance
The Non-Returner survey’s new methodology contributed to:
Increasing the response rate
Producing high-quality data
But even the revamped Non-returning survey has limitations:
Focuses on students who already stopped attending classes at the College (at least temporarily)
Thus, it cannot be used as a direct intervention to prevent students from exiting the College
Next step was to survey all credit students in the Spring.