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Santa Monica College. Best Practices in College Student Retention. Maximizing Campus Resources to Effect Student Success Esau Tovar John Gonzalez Retention Counselor Dean, Academic Affairs.

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best practices in college student retention

Santa Monica College

Best Practices in College Student Retention

Maximizing Campus Resources to Effect Student Success

Esau Tovar John Gonzalez

Retention Counselor Dean, Academic Affairs

scope of the problem
Without systematic intervention, students at-risk will perform poorly or dropout from college within their first year of attendance.

Community college students are more prone to dropping out.

Freshman to Sophomore Dropout Rates By Institution Type

Source: ACT Institutional Data Questionnaires 1999

Two-Year Public 47.5

Two-Year Private 30.1

BA/BS Public 33.3

BA/BS Private 28.6

MA Public 30.5

MA Private 24.0

PhD Public 23.5

PhD Private 16.4

National 32.6

Scope of the Problem
probationary students at smc
Probationary Studentsat SMC

StatusA and LA onlyL only Total%

Con’t’g 184 1,417 444 2,045 9.1%

Disqualified 211 329 769 1,309 5.8%

New 453 1,787 1,005 3,245 14.4%

Total 848 3,533 2,218 6,599 29.3%

Off 59 479 347 885 3.9%

Distinct Student Counts-- End of Fall 1996 (Based on 22,467 Enrollment)

characteristics of highly successful retention programs
Characteristics of Highly Successful Retention Programs
  • Highly Structured Programs
    • THE key: Intrusive, proactive approaches to reach students before they experience difficulties
  • Interlocked with other programs and services
  • Extended, intense student contact
  • Strategized to “engage” students
  • Track student satisfaction
  • Institution-wide buy-in and understanding
  • Recognize, reward, and celebrate student success
  • Rewards and recognition for students, faculty, staff, administrators
establishing retention priorities
Establishing Retention Priorities
  • Measurable targets for:
    • Recruitment
    • Retention
    • Persistence
    • Student Success
    • Student Satisfaction/Priorities
best and most direct way to increase retention
Best and Most Direct Way to Increase Retention
  • Assess:
    • Individual needs
    • Individual attitudes
    • Individual motivation levels
what needs to occur
What Needs to Occur?
  • To improve retention, we must help students:
    • Connect to the environment
    • Adjust to the college transition
    • Work toward and reassess set goals
    • Succeed in their classes
    • Make them feel welcome and respected
connecting to the college
Connecting to the College
  • Adjustment to College:
    • Are we a student-centered campus?
    • How do we know this?
    • What do students say about their priorities?
    • How satisfied are they with our programs and services?
    • Do we have a true customer service orientation?
structured first year experience
Structured First-Year Experience
  • For most or all participants?
    • Provide academic advising
    • Heavily influenced course selection
    • Supplemental instruction (SI) & Tutoring
    • Study groups
    • Services to assist with adjustment to the institution
structured first year experience13
Structured First-Year Experience
  • Academic Advising
    • Must be developmental and intrusive in nature
      • Multiple visits per semester
    • Ongoing tracking
      • Early Alert-type evaluation
structured first year experience14
Structured First-Year Experience
  • Heavily Influenced Course Selection
    • Learning communities
    • Freshman interest groups (FIGS)
    • Developmental instruction
    • Lecture-based vs. collaboratively taught; group discussion
    • Assessment driven
structured first year experience15
Structured First-Year Experience
  • Supplemental Instruction & Tutoring
    • Establish a comprehensive and ongoing training program
    • SI may be instructor or staff-led
    • Multiple tutors for high-risk courses
structured first year experience16
Structured First-Year Experience
  • Effective Study Groups
    • Most successful if led by a group leader—tutor
    • Meet regularly
structured first year experience17
Structured First-Year Experience
  • Pre-Enrollment Services to Assist with College Adjustment:
    • Specialized/expanded college orientation
      • Not necessarily to provide academic or enrollment information
      • Experiential learning & Adventure recreation activities are offered
      • Faculty & student-staff involvement
structured first year experience18
Structured First-Year Experience
  • "Targeted" Participant Recruitment and Participation Incentives
    • “Admission” criteria & control over ongoing participation
    • Promote opportunities for engagement—academically and socially
    • Personal, meaningful, and multiple contacts with faculty (in and out of the classroom—field trips, ad hoc discussions);
    • Mentoring experience
    • Teacher/student lunches
    • Employment opportunities
    • Arranged internships and externships
focus on academic success

Focus on Academic Success

Don’t say it. Do it!

encourage support student success
Encourage & Support Student Success
  • Build upon students’ academic skills and confidence
  • Help students learn subject matter (e.g., SI, course instruction, computer-assisted instructional laboratories, study groups, and/or tutoring).
  • Clear and Effective Grading Practices
  • Communicate Expectations
encourage support student success21
Encourage & Support Student Success
  • Extensive Student Service Contacts
    • Frequent contact with students through individual and group activities
  • Work with students to:
    • Strengthen self-concept
    • Increase sense of control over environment
    • Set realistic goals and means to achieve them
    • Overcome negative educational experiences
    • Accept responsibility for own success/future
encourage support student success22
Encourage & Support Student Success
  • Faculty Development Activities
    • Focused on instructional techniques, practices, improving retention
    • Formative & Summative Assessment
    • Grading Philosophies
      • Traditional
      • Constructivist
best practices in developmental education

Best Practices in Developmental Education

Boylan, Bonham, & White (1999)

best policies in developmental education
Best Policies in Developmental Education
  • Promoting institutional commitment to DE
  • Mandatory assessment and placement Provide comprehensive approach to DE courses and services
  • Enforce strict attendance
  • Abolish late registration in DE courses
  • Establish ongoing orientation courses and activities
best practices in developmental education25
Best Practices in Developmental Education
  • Centralized structure and coordination of DE courses
  • Encourage professional development
  • Implement classroom assessment techniques (learning, feedback)
  • Engage in regular and systematic program evaluation
  • Focus of developing metacognitive skills
  • Give frequent tests
  • Use a theory-based approach to teaching
  • Integrate classroom, learning assistance, and laboratory activities
learning communities

Learning Communities

Models and Practices

learning communities components
Learning Communities Components
  • Students enroll in classes together
  • Best when courses are offered on a central theme or problem
  • Frequently team-taught
  • Use collaborative and/or problem-based learning approaches
  • Offer opportunities to forms connections with other students
learning communities models29
Freshman Interest Group

Goal: To create a small academic learning community in a large college setting

Offered as triad of courses and discussion group/seminar based on a theme

Example of FIG

Learning Communities Models

Introductory Psychology


Individual & Group Correlates of Gender

Sociology of Gender


Cultural Anthropology


FIG Discussion Group

identifying at risk students

Identifying At-Risk Students

Predictive Modeling Approaches

identifying potential dropouts unsuccessful students
Identifying Potential Dropouts & Unsuccessful Students
  • Predictive Modeling: Statistical analysis of past behavior to simulate future results
    • Examine institution's historical data
    • Isolate and weight (according to statistical importance) attrition indicators
    • Indicators are used to form a custom predictive scoring model for each student group
    • Use indicators to:
      • Formulate priority-ranked intervention strategies based on likelihood-of-persistence ratings assigned to each entering student.