Retention

Today was a day (but not the first) that I realized I will not stay at my institution for the long-term. I might not even stay in higher ed. Today showed me the two very different sides of retention, of risk factors, of student process. Today I was reminded of how powerless I am in the machine of higher ed.

This afternoon I attended a training session focused on student retention and one of our efforts to reduce student loss. It was framed in a very interesting way: get students back on campus for Spring term. Take specific steps for a specific group of students: reach out, get in contact, work on a plan to get them back on campus for the Spring. There was no discussion about student success. No mention of student goals. We talked about process, numbers, data, and enrollment.

Later in the day I attended a student veteran group meeting. One student veteran, after a discussion about being on campus, said "I would rather be back in Iraq".

Yes.

A student would rather be IN IRAQ than on my campus.

We are focused on getting students back on campus next Spring. We spend HOURS tracking, contacting, and filling out forms to get students on campus for Spring.

The above student will likely not complete his/her degree program. He/she has so many risk factors that someone should be checking in on him/her regularly. To make sure he/she is on track, is transitioning ok, is connecting with other student veterans, and knows about resources on campus (and in the community). He/she deserves to have hours spent on his/her success. I guarantee you that there hasn't been any outreach concerning his/her student veteran status other than the student veteran club. There is no professional to track him/her. There is more than one student like this.

We do not have a Student Veterans Office or Coordinator on campus. I have no one to refer this student to. No one to follow up with him/her, to alert him/her academic advisor, or to make sure he/she's ok tomorrow.

We're leaving men behind.

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    1. Hi Chelsea,

      I had difficulty with my post so deleted it and am reposting.

      I found your blog and twitter, among those of others in SA, when looking to discourage a young adult I know from pursuing a SA degree. I went down that path staring in 2000 and worked in the field for several years. My experiences were similar to yours and I finally left, found a low paying job in the private sector (but similar pay to SA/HE and flexibility/low stress) and worked my way through school in a medical area. The process has taken me 6 years and help from my family. The biggest thing I wanted to tell you is that I have learned something I think is a key to the nature of the SA/HE environment. Private sector experience and volunteering in a non-profit and meeting a lot of successful people have shown me this: SE has a very skewed view of networking. Networking in SA is about transactions and brand building. In my SA job I was constanly told, "image is what matters." I have learned that true networking is about relationship building in order to achieve something for a greater good, either now or --more often-- in the future. But you cannot network that way if the people in your world do not network that way. Best of luck to you.

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