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Both student experience and retention rates are important factors for a university to thrive. But how to explain how they influence each other? Let’s take an example.

Employee satisfaction is correlated with project completion. Employees who enjoy a positive work environment and feel valued are more likely to complete projects successfully. Similarly, when students have a positive learning experience, they are more likely to complete their courses or programs.

Retention rates as a barometer of university wellness

Higher education institutions measure student retention to get information about how they perform. It is a metric of success for students and for educational institutions.

How to measure?

By comparing the numbers of student return rates from one year to the next. If they are high, there is no reason to worry. But if they go low, that means colleges and universities are losing students before graduation.

There are many reasons for this. The questions for universities to ask are:

  • Why do students drop out or transfer?
  • What are the reasons for not graduating?
  • Are there internal or external causes for low retention rates?

Then identify and focus on the problems to solve them. You can’t control things that happen outside, like a pandemic or a financial crisis. But you can see the internal factors at a glance. Higher learning institutions get input from students and lecturers. On this basis, the campus community identifies difficulty spots that you can work to improve.

Six factors shaping retention rates

There exist numerous interactions between students and educational institutions. From the recruitment and admissions process through onboarding and the whole learning path—there are plenty of opportunities to craft an outstanding student experience. Universities should consider these six factors to maintain high retention rates.

Improve the educational experience

Students thrive when they feel like they are part of something bigger. Encouraging leadership opportunities, community service, and other forms of involvement outside the classroom can help students establish connections.

69% of students are satisfied with the student services and support at their institution. But institutions still have opportunities to do more, as only 24% of students said they were very satisfied.

Source: Connected Student Report, Third Edition, Salesforce

Identifying clear goals is another crucial aspect. When students have well-defined objectives, they are more likely to recognize their progress and accomplishments. This, in turn, boosts motivation and self-esteem.

A welcoming community within the educational institution is the next remedy. How can this be done? By providing resources like writing centers, academic tutors, guidance counseling, career success conferences. Approachable faculty members help students navigate challenges and seek guidance when needed. It fosters an environment where students feel supported and valued.

Support student mental health

How to make wellbeing resources on campus important? By providing students with access to mental health services and support networks. Educational institutions can help students navigate the challenges they face.

Universities should make mental and physical health professionals more readily available for students—psychiatrists, nutritional consultations, physical trainers, etc.-said a 25-year-old American student.

Source: Connected Student Report, Third Edition, Salesforce

Some students may require additional support due to cognitive disabilities. Decision-making and concentration are more difficult in such cases. Institutions should provide accessible resources, accommodations, and a supportive environment to ensure that all students can thrive academically and emotionally.

Develop intervention strategies

Students who encounter gaps in their education, leaving them without the necessary foundation for further studies, can easily become discouraged. To address this, institutions should implement a fast and reliable system to identify early signs of academic struggles.

While 43% of students say their university goes beyond meeting their basic wellbeing by offering social and emotional support, only 21% of students feel that their institution places a great importance on wellbeing.

Source: Connected Student Report, Third Edition, Salesforce

Many students are juggling multiple roles as full-time learners, part-time workers, occasional volunteers, and active family members. These commitments can lead to falling behind academically. Offering tutoring or the opportunity to retake classes can help bridge educational gaps and keep students on track.

Moreover, students often participate in internships, student councils, extracurricular activities, and athletics, which can overwhelm their schedules. Time management becomes a critical skill to master during college years. Institutions can provide resources such as counseling, coaching, and guidance in school success to help students manage their time effectively and avoid feeling overwhelmed by their workload.

A proactive approach ensures that students stay engaged and succeed in their educational pursuits.

Focus on financial aid and scholarships

Studying is undeniably a financial burden for many families. The expenses extend beyond tuition fees. The cost of apartment rent, groceries, and daily spending adds to the strain.

To combat this, it’s crucial for students and families to carefully consider the financial implications of taking out substantial loans to fund higher education. The future cost of debt and the potential return on investment influence decisions about enrollment.

Factors that are important in deciding to enroll in your university: 33% total cost of studies and 21% availability of finance or student loans or sponsorship.

Source: Connected Student Report, Third Edition, Salesforce

One effective strategy to alleviate this financial burden is to provide additional financial assistance to students in need. This can be achieved through resources like grants and scholarships.

By addressing these financial concerns, educational institutions can empower students to stay committed to their educational pursuits and achieve their academic goals.

Offer flexible learning options

Technology makes education inclusive. It allows students from varied backgrounds to access resources and coursework.

Eight in ten students who feel very connected to their student or alumni community report that their institution provides easy access to online resources, services, and sharing apps.

Source: Connected Student Report, Third Edition, Salesforce

Challenging coursework can be a deterrent for some students. As a result, they may reconsider their educational journey. By offering flexible learning pathways and personalized study plans, institutions can help students navigate demanding courses at their own pace. It is a great way of fostering achievement and motivation.

Online courses provide an excellent avenue for students seeking flexibility. They allow individuals to balance education with other commitments, reducing the likelihood of dropping out due to scheduling conflicts.

Gather student data

What’s more powerful than gathering data? By actively seeking feedback from students regarding their classes and their sense of community, educational institutions can identify pain points and areas in need of improvement.

CMO of a public research institution: It is a risk for an institution of our size to not to have a centralized marketing and communications platform.

Source: Forrester Report: The Total Economic Impact Of Salesforce Education Cloud, October 2020

In addition to feedback, leveraging predictive analytics can be a real game-changer. By analyzing data patterns, institutions can pinpoint at-risk students and intervene proactively before they drop out or transfer.

Student support service from start to finish

Student assistance resources touch on many of the other issues impacting student retention. Schools may offer additional financial assistance to students in need through resources like grants. Those struggling academically can use tutors to aid their studies. A guidance counselor advises students about balancing commitments, and a mental health counselor can help students manage anxiety or depression.

What matters is the constant support: from the beginning to the end of the students’ educational journey.

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