30% of college students drop out after their first year of college according to College Atlas. While news sources call out cost as the number one reason for students leaving school before graduating, it's a factor that is often outside of the scope and immediate control of higher education professionals. Therefore it becomes the responsibility of universities and university officials to focus on controllable factors.
The overarching theme here is a lack of support, which is interesting because most universities pride themselves on having a multitude of resources. Thus, the focus needs to be on redirecting those resources to best meet students' needs. This support can be broken down into academic, professional, mental, and emotional support.
Academic and Professional Support
One of the biggest impacts on a student's cost to attend the university relates to how knowledgeable they are in understanding credit requirements and passing classes to obtain credits. In other words, the more classes they take that do not directly contribute to their graduation progress translate to an increase in out-of-pocket spending - especially if they are not full-time students.
Remedial classes are one example of a class that has to be taken to bridge the gap between collegiate level and high school courses, something that principally affects high-risk students due to a lack of funding and inadequate standards in public schools. If college admissions would proactively involve high school counselors to provide screenings in problematic subjects such as math and science, students would be able to take bridge courses at a less expensive institution the summer prior to entering college.
Gauging academic readiness without holding it against the student when determining who should be admitted is the best way to support students who may need the additional boost once admitted. Many student advisors are involved in the process of helping students choose their classes out of obligation as opposed to a desire to help students, which leads to an overwhelming feeling that as students they are treated as a quota. Hiring professors and advisors who have more interest in students than research is a necessary step in providing the academic and professional support students need.
Based on a previous article I wrote regarding mental health and student-athletes, increasing visibility of services in regards to career and professional growth by engaging students during class and integrating it into their day-to-day curriculum will help students to understand the responsibility of their advisor's role and reach out for support when necessary.
Mental and Emotional Support
The less visible reason that students drop out is due to a lack of emotional support. According to the National Alliance for Mental Illness, 45% of college students drop out because they have a mental health need that is not being appropriately addressed by their university.
Within the schools that do have college readiness courses for students, few focus on the mental wellness aspect of entering and successfully completing college, and if they do, the follow up is slim to none. In addition, the increase in parents' focus on grades due to higher standards and costs to enter into college has resulted in a lack of focus in terms of emotional regulation and stress management. Partnering with parents and explaining the importance of going beyond the grades from a home support perspective, will help remove some of the burden schools currently face. Also, identifying students with a lack of parental support can provide direction for schools in terms of students who require additional check-ins and more support to compensate for what they lack at home.
In addition to emotional regulation, students that are not apart of Greek Life or other professional organizations miss out on some of the training and workshops geared towards time management. From my personal collegiate experience, I recall being involved in too many things and being provided with workshops that helped me to manage my emotions and schedule. Helping students to make decisions on how much they commit to can help prevent students from overcommitting in extracurricular activities.
If you and your staff are ready to take your university's student retention and engagement rates to the next level, let me be the solution to your problem by contacting me today about one of my many programs aimed at helping students find the support they need and helping staff provide the support they need. This is an issue that we need to take on together, and with the right mindset, I am certain we can do it.
Gabriella Payne builds teams and communities through inspiration and strategic confidence development. She works with universities, athletic groups, and corporations to help students and recent graduates transform their mental thought patterns by teaching new, healthier habits. She is also an advocate for healthy relationships and teaches a series called "See It Coming".