Professional / Education Essay


Student Retention in Higher Education

It takes two parties, or more, to get things done in any aspect of life. And this is also true for the educational system we run in the country. Without the school, students will not acquire knowledge. And without students either, a learning institution cannot be sustainably run. A symbiotic relationship must be created between these two parties for the betterment of education and society at large.

Lately, however, student retention in the institutions of higher learning has been a recurring topic, especially in the discussions of practitioners and decision-makers in our education sector. Questions that need answers have been raised about students and the general educational system.

These questions need clear-cut answers for the quality of education to be improved. This is why there is a need to explicitly examine this serious topic of student retention in higher institutions because of the recurring questions that continue to arise about it every now and then.

In this short article, our focus shall be on this, with extra attention paid to how the retention rates can be properly sustained, or increased in times of crisis.

To understand student retention in higher institutions, let's briefly look at some scientific theories presented by scholars around the world to explain the process of this interesting concept. The theories we will be examining are;

1. Spady's Undergraduate Dropout Process Model (1970, 1971)

This model proposes that there are two different institutional systems in which students operate. The first is the academic, based on schoolwork; the transfer and acquisition of knowledge, and the overall assessment that comes after every learning session. The second is social, which has to do with the personality and attitudes of students. Their relationship with other individuals is also put into consideration here.

This model also integrates Durkheim's theory on suicide and relates it to the model, stating that the arguments laid out by Durkheim are all present in a student's attrition process.

In all this model is based on the assumption that (1) academic success equals a student's satisfaction with school, and (2) that the sustenance of one's satisfaction or commitment in school depends on the reward, either social or academic, is gained from it.

2. Tinto's Institutional Departure Model (1975, 1993)

Tinto's theory on student retention is an expansion of Spady's Undergraduate Dropout Process Model. Durkheim's theory on suicide was also adopted to explain retention and student satisfaction in and commitment to higher education.

In particular, Tinto also built most of his arguments on Van Gennep's writings on social integration which he published in 1960. Tinto argues that the difficulty students experience in the transition from the home or high school environment to the college environment; the relationships they have to build, and the new community they have to adapt are essential in the success of students from their days as freshmen.

Tinto argues in unison with Spady to propose the two institutional systems by which students operate in higher institutions.

Tinto's model is the most cited and, perhaps, the most popular theory on student retention.

3. Bean's Student Attrition Model (1982)

Lastly, we have Student Attrition Model, one presented by Bean. He partially discards the previous models on the ground that neither of them has direct correlation testability. He also argues that insufficient evidence to prove the link between Durkheim’s suicide theory and the attrition of students is not tangible.

Bean argues that students leave school for the same reason an employer leaves their work. Using statistics and quantitative data, Bean was able to find out that students (both male and female) generally leave school for the same reason, arguing that individual commitment is the main factor responsible for student attrition. Factors like student engagement, educational value, satisfaction, external motivation, and the university's grading policy are factors that lead to drop out or transfer to other institutions.

Factors that affect student retention in higher education

The individual struggle is one reason and could be based on such things as finance, health, work, psychology, and so on. Many students drop out of school due to the lack of finances to sponsor their education. Others do for health reasons or psychological, and interpersonal problems that they find difficult to get rid of.

One of the major factors affecting student commitment to higher education is the difficulty they experience in terms of academics. Some people lose or don't have the motivation (internal or external to continue). Inadequacies in the skills necessary for the operation of their program can also affect a student's decision to drop out of school.

Other factors include program distinction (that is, part-time/full-time variation), loss of interest in one's course of study, immaturity, wrong career and educational decisions, quality of education as well as the school of choice.

Strategies that can be adopted to reduce the rates of student retention in higher education

The students of any school are the chief promoters of the school. They showcase the quality of education the institution has and also the learning environment they provide for students of all learning ability. But without a closely-knitted relationship between these two important parties in the education sector, retention is bound to happen. However, it is the responsibility of higher institutions to create and maintain this relationship. And, different effective strategies can be implemented in this effect. We'll be examining some of them below.

● A close connection should be created between the college and the students. Advisors who are meant to guide the students should be put in place early in the freshman year to get students accustomed to college life. Sessions with students should be held regularly as well.

● First-year student orientation about college life, as well as social and academic integration also goes a long way in reducing attrition.

● Mandatory lecture attendance in the first year of college is also a wonderful way to reduce student attrition. When, in their first year, students are taught to attend all their classes and not lag behind in any of their academic operations, they get to do well.

● Introduction of programs that admits students with special needs and problems is also a good way to boost retention rates.

● School curriculum, assessmentStudent Retention in Higher Education, and examination that won't weigh students down should also be adopted.

These are just some of the ways student retention rates in higher education can be significantly increased to rid of the high rates of college dropouts and student attrition.

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