Ways to get students to stay

Many new college students won’t be back sophomore year.  At community colleges, 56 percent of students return for a second year, up from 51 percent in 2004, according to ACT research. The average retention rate is 74 percent at four-year public or private colleges. Colleges are trying to improve retention rates, reports Caralee Adams on Ed Week.

Weak academic skills and shaky motivation are the major reasons students give up on college, reports ACT.

The City University of New York boosted retention — and three-year graduation rates — through the Accelerated Study in Associate Programs (ASAP). Students move through college as a group. They receive books, transportation aid and tuition support so they can be full-time students.

“If students are struggling, counselors work with faculty and students to get help,” said Donna Linderman, the program’s director. “It’s individualized. That’s the heart and soul of the program—to help with the transition into college and use the resources available.”

Fifty-five percent of the first group earned an associate degree in three years compared to 24 percent of a comparison group.

College Bound, a nonprofit in St. Louis, provides coaches to help low-income college students cope with problems and stay in school.

Under financial pressure, low-income students often take fewer classes and try to work longer hours.  Single Stop USA helps low-income students apply for a range of benefits, such as Pell Grants, food stamps, earned-income tax credits and child care aid, so they can stick to their studies.

“There are lots of resources and services, but they aren’t coordinated,” (co-founder Elisabeth) Mason said. “We seek to become a one-stop shop, where students can be comprehensively screened.”

The nonprofit has offices at 18 community colleges in five states, and is expanding.

Under pressure to raise graduation rates, colleges are working with nonprofits to help students cope with unexpected crises, notes the Hechinger Report.

In pain from a decaying tooth, Job Asiimwe nearly quit Bunker Hill Community College months away from graduation. Using a foundation-funded Dreamkeepers grant, the college paid for Asiimwe’s dental work.

“Finances are the number one reason students drop out. It’s not just school finances — it’s life finances,” said Lauren Segal, president and CEO of Scholarship America. “It’s the day-to-day life experiences that are the hurdles students have to get over. And those don’t have to be big things. They can be small things — say, their daycare goes up $100 a month, and that’s the make-or-break number.”

At Mount Hood Community College near Portland, Ore., employees have found students sleeping in campus restrooms or in their cars. Mount Hood lets students check out books, laptops and calculators if they can’t afford them, runs a food pantry and provides bus passes for students in emergencies.


POSTED BY Joanne Jacobs ON September 27, 2011

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