We Need to Do More Than Rearrange the Deck Chairs

Titanic

We Need to Do More Than Rearrange the Deck Chairs
Bill Bradfield
Executive Vice President of Business Development, Greenwood Hall

I just finished reading the “National Student Clearinghouse Research Center Signature Report #10,” and the news is dismal.  The six-year cohort completion (read graduation rate) continued its precipitous decline down 2.1% to 52.9% in 2015.  That means that roughly half the students who entered college in the 2009 cohort failed to get a degree in six years! (I added the exclamation point as I could not find one in the NSC report…  and there should have been at least one, dang it!).  The report is lengthy and scholarly, and while a long read, it is compelling.  https://nscresearchcenter.org/signaturereport10

What is really compelling is that, despite hundreds of millions of dollars spent on software and warning systems, the student success needle isn’t moving in the right direction.  In fact, it’s moving in the wrong direction…  and at an accelerating pace.  The NSC report cited the availability of financial aid as a major factor.  Authors Shapiro et al. also stated that:

The other major factors leading to institutional departure include family expectations, lack of social integration, confusion about academic major, and academic/employment balance (Bers & Schuetz, 2014; Hunt et al., 2012). This reaffirms the importance of creating diverse opportunities for student engagement at higher education institutions to compliment [sic] completion efforts. (2015)

Well, that’s no surprise!  Social issues and not academic issues are the major cause of “institutional departure” (NSC’s phrase…  not mine).  Neal Raisman warned us of that back in 2012.  It’s not academics or availability of financial aid.  “Institutional departure” is caused by

  • Lack of customer service
  • Feeling that the education isn’t worth it (losing the dream)
  • Believing the college doesn’t care and
  • Lack of social engagement

I have written about these in past posts and I won’t belabor them here.

However, I will make an observation.  Can you imagine what would happen to a company that routinely loses half of its customers?  What would become of investors’ hopes?  Executives’ careers?  Employees’ livelihoods?  American business had that dilemma in the 1970s.  Poor customer service and the emergence of international competition devastated industries in this country (e.g. automobile, small appliances, etc.); the list is endless.

It’s time to reverse the trend of student attrition.  We are all working hard at retention, re-engagement, enrollment, and they can all be positively affected by high touch, proactive treatment of students.  It’s been proven to work and it’s time to do it aggressively before we stumble further and create a national tragedy of an ineffective workforce, unrecoverable student debt and millions of unfulfilled dreams.