College student retention is always on the forefront of the minds of college student advisors, deans, and administrators. Rightfully so, because without college students, colleges and universities cease to exist and the advisors and deans are without a job.
Therefore retention and academic success is hugely important to ensure the success of a college or university. As a former college student and lifelong learner who frequents college campuses speaking on this topic and occasionally taking some professional development coursework myself, I have observed and come to know a few reasons why colleges fail at retention and why college students become discouraged and leave college.
1. College students are tolerated rather than celebrated.
When the higher-ups in a college take a hierarchical approach to education and treat students like they are beneath them, students feel alienated and become disgruntled. Nobody likes to be mistreated, particularly college students paying high fees to attend a college.
When bureaucrats within college administration, the transcript office, and the student union treat college students disrespectfully rather than serving them gladly, it frustrates college students and tells them the college or university does not care about them.
When colleges treat their students like another number, eventually students opt for a different approach to pursue their career. Students like to be respected too and not made to stand in line excessively to collect documents, books, parking decals and trivial things that to them are meaningless.
2. College students get angry at being nickled and dimed by colleges.
College students quite frankly don’t like paying high tuition fees to attend college, only to later by charged for parking, and than get ticketed for parking in the wrong place when they were running late to class and there was inadequate parking to begin with.
Let’s face the facts. Professors themselves on many college campuses have a hard time finding a place to park. Yet colleges continue to profit by issuing parking tickets. Making students pay $50 to $100 a semester to park is bad enough. Colleges run their parking lots like Disney World, Sea World, and Universal Studios in Orlando, profiting handsomely along the way.
Even worse is when the college intentionally and purposefully pursues issuing parking tickets night and day to collect more revenue for the college. Robbing Peter (or your college students who are already challenged financially) to pay Paul (this being the college) doesn’t endear college students to the academic institution and university. On the contrary, it makes the burning mad and eventually mad enough to consider attending college elsewhere.
3. College students get demoralized when they approach their professor for help and the professor doesn’t give them the time of day, nor an adequate explanation for their problem.
Professors at colleges and universities just working to further their career, collect a paycheck, and publish their latest dissertation or book who don’t give students the time of day leave students feeling demoralized when they are struggling with a class.
Class assignments and college level material comes easier for some students than others. Therefore when a student is struggling and needs some additional time or help, the professor should make himself or herself available to help the student.
Unfortunately many times nowadays college professors just want to communicate via email, that is if they even check their email and reply in time to help the struggling student and answer their questions. Online forums are another method by which professors try to punt and shun students in need of help.
What colleges fail to realize however is students go to college for hands on instruction and interaction with professors, not to be alienated through an online course or partial net based course that keeps professors and college students at arms length.
4. Financial challenges and constraints cause students to withdraw from college.
Colleges aren’t free and students cannot always obtain financial aid. Scholarships are wonderful if a student can get one to go to college, but many students are forced to work a part-time job to survive financially and put themselves through college.
I know I worked a part-time job to put myself through college and rode a bicycle to and from school and work. The sacrifices I made to complete my college education were many.
With the current economic downturn and rising unemployment level, many college students are being laid off from part-time jobs and struggling financially to sustain themselves and pay for their college education.
5. Students withdraw from college when they don’t feel socially connected.
A solid social life wherein a student feels connected to other students on his or her college campus is vital to ensure their success. Emotional support and the comradery of friends who understand them and their struggles empower students to persevere with their college education.
When student advisors, deans, and college administration fail to account for and proactively facilitate the necessary social element that sustains students’ morale, they do themselves and their college a great disservice. Undeniably and undoubtedly, college students want to feel connected and a part of something larger than themselves. Yet it is not a connection to an academic institution per say that they desire as much as it is to their fellow students journeying with them through this season of college life.
Successful colleges therefore don’t just suggest and make social activities and associations available for students, but proactively facilitate and incorporate this into their college’s approach to education early on. By doing so, successful colleges provide every student, including those more shy students with less social initiative the opportunity to be actively engaged and socially interact with other students. This opens the door for meaningful interaction, communication, and the establishing of meaningful friendships among college students on campus. Without such students just fall through the cracks socially, tend to become isolated, and often disappear as they become disillusioned with the whole college experience.
These five reasons are the biggest reasons retention efforts among college students are not succeeding and students are withdrawing from college.
The good news is students and professionals desire to attend college. Most of us value and uphold education. The struggles along the way en route to obtaining a college education and further professional development however when a student steps on a college campus can be irritating and downright frustrating.
Retention coordinators and specialists on college campuses therefore need to urgently and wholeheartedly attend to these matters lest they be the next ones standing in the unemployment line, when college students walk out and say they have had enough.