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Making retention work

Since 1988’s all-time high in the college enrollment African Americans enrollment of African, American, declining high school completion figures have contributed to a slower increase in minority college participation After more than a decade of intensely examining factors that influence retention, we seem to be in a period of slippage of minority participation and success at the post-secondary level.


 If a goal of higher education is to effectively assist minority students in their quest for academic success, then it must work to become truly barrier-free, reducing the risk of failure. This can be accomplished by institutions responding to issues surrounding academic preparation financial assistance (scholarships), and an on-going audit of the institutional environment. The integration of minorities into the fabric of the institution’s life–via the boardroom classroom, and the staff room–is essential to that goal.


 The goal can become a reality is institutions develop educational initiatives that will create a campus atmosphere where students are presented with a mandate to succeed, not the right to fail.


 A 1996 study of 163 community colleges across the country with enrollments of more than 5,000 students compiled strategies used to recruit, retain and graduate minority students enrolled in vocational programs. The research indicated that student success is highest when retention efforts are coordinated by a centralized office or: person, mating the effort visible, and giving it a sense of importance.


 The most critical person in the retention effort is the college president or top administrator. Without the commitment of the board of trustees and president, retention efforts will not be successful. Institution-wide commitment and involvement provides the greatest impact. Faculty, staff, student service personnel, support services administrators and students must combine their interests and energy to improve the institution’s retentive power. Respondents to the study perceived the president, followed by academic and student affairs administrators, faculty and the college board, as tile key stakeholders behind retention.


 Having a retention steering or advisory committee is another integral aspect of promoting retention. Fifty-four percent of the responding institutions indicated that they did not have a retention steering or advisory committee. This reveals the low level of involvement and importance placed on retention activities.


 Those most involved on the advisory committee were faculty (39 percent), student affairs (33 percent) and academic administrators (2X percent), general administrators (27 percent), and student (23 percent). The involvement of such a diverse group of people throughout the institution gives strength to the retention effort.


 According to the study, the strategies used most often by institutions to overcome retention problems were:


·         the creation of positions dedicated to handling retention activities on campus;


·         * the recognition of the need for additional funding sources


·         * the establishment of mentor programs for minority students–programs which have helped minorities see successful students and staff who can show them a path to success, and which give them the confidence and support they need

·         * the re-organization of faculty\staff duties and responsibilities to assist in retention activities–especially for institutions with limited resources;

·         * the development of a reporting system for identification and tracking so that institutions can have accurate data and data processing capabilities, on the different facets of their programs; and


·         * the development of faculty\staff training to better understand minority populations.

·         With Blacks, Hispanics, and Native Americans continuing to be under-represented in higher education the professions, it has created a national urgency to enlarge the pool of well-prepared minority students in order to improve the productive capacity of the calf the nation within an increasingly competitive global economy.


·         Institutions can help eliminate barriers to retention by addressing the issues surrounding academic preparedness of minority students, exploring the extent of financial assistance to those students desiring an education, and fostering a positive educational climate. There appears to be consensus that successful efforts to improve minority participation in higher education require a systematic approach proceeding: from accepted policies to which the Highest levels of institutional leadership subscribe.


·         Retention rates can be improved–and the cost, time and effort may be considerably less than administrators fear. By implementing the critical factors that make retention work–such as positive faculty relations, community relations, leadership, the organization of services into a unit, orientations, student support classes and series recruitment planning, academic intervention services, campus climate, and award ceremonies–institutions of higher education can help retain minority students now.


·         COPYRIGHT 1997 Cox, Matthews & Associates
COPYRIGHT 2004 Gale Group

© Copyright 2005 by

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