Best Practices for Administrators to Improve Retention Rates in Higher Education

Ginelle Testa

Did you know that a 2022 College Dropout Report states that among first-time bachelor’s degree seekers, 25.7% ultimately drop out, and among all undergraduate students, up to 40% drop out? In this article, we'll explore the best practices administrators can use to improve the key metric of retention rates and ensure that more students successfully complete their degrees.

High retention rates often indicate that students are satisfied with their education, feel supported by their institution, and are more likely to complete their degree programs. Low retention rates, on the other hand, can signal a variety of problems, including a lack of student engagement, insufficient academic support, or inadequate resources

This article aims to provide administrators with actionable insights and practical guidance to improve retention rates at their institutions. By implementing these best practices, administrators can create a supportive and engaging learning environment that fosters student success and ultimately leads to higher retention rates.

8 Best Practices for Improving Retention Rates

1. Create a supportive campus community and culture

An inclusive and supportive campus culture can help students feel a sense of belonging and motivation to succeed. Strategies for creating this kind of environment might include diversity and inclusion initiatives, mental health resources, and opportunities for civic engagement. 

According to a research study, not only do students who feel like they belong at their school make deeper connections and get involved, but they also earn higher grades and opt into and succeed in more difficult courses. Creating a sense of inclusion matters.

2. Offer early intervention and academic support programs

Identifying struggling students early on and providing them with targeted support can help prevent them from falling behind and ultimately dropping out. Effective support programs might include tutoring, peer mentoring, and study groups.

3. Enhance academic and career advising services

Providing high-quality advising services can help students make informed decisions about their academic and career paths, which can ultimately lead to greater retention rates. Advising services might include career exploration, course planning, and assistance with internships and job placement.

A recent survey by Strada shows that fewer than a third of American adults understand the career pathways available to them or the skills they may gain from degree-bearing programs. Connecting the dots for students can help them feel more committed to their path at their university. 

4. Support teachers in engaging students

Administrators can encourage the use of innovative teaching methods, such as active learning and flipped classrooms, to support engaged learning. It’s important to provide educators with resources and tools that can help them engage students, such as multimedia content, interactive learning tools, and online resources.

5. Give faculty and staff access to professional development

By offering professional development opportunities, universities can demonstrate a commitment to ongoing learning and improvement, which can help create a culture of learning throughout the institution. This can lead to greater innovation and collaboration, which can improve retention rates.

6. Offer flexible scheduling

Students have different needs and responsibilities outside of their academic coursework, such as jobs, internships, and family obligations. Offering flexible scheduling institution-wide can help students balance these responsibilities and make it easier for them to stay enrolled. It can also help faculty in achieving a work-life balance themselves. 

7. Collect and implement feedback from students, faculty, and staff

Collecting feedback from students, faculty, and staff is a valuable tool for administrators looking to improve retention strategies and tactics. By soliciting feedback, administrators can gain insights into what is working well and what needs improvement, allowing them to make data-driven decisions about how to allocate resources and support retention efforts. Throw in a giveaway to entice them to fill out the survey.

8. Implement technology-based retention solutions

Leveraging technology can help administrators better track and analyze retention data, as well as communicate with students and provide them with targeted support. Examples of technology-based retention solutions might include predictive analytics tools, virtual advising platforms, and mobile apps for student engagement

Are you an administrator looking to improve student engagement and retention rates in your science courses? Look no further than Labster! Our virtual lab simulations provide students with a digital learning advantage that helps engage and motivate them to learn. 80% of students who used Labster said they were now more likely to continue to enroll in STEM courses. 
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