Long gone are the days when the relationship between a university and a student was something purely transactional. Colleges are no longer institutions that merely provide an education, and outside those office hours, students carry on with their separate lives. Instead, today’s students look for a college that can blend seamlessly into their lives, understand their worries and fears, and support them through every challenge they’ll face in the next two to four years, in school and beyond. This is why, more and more, we’re seeing that the universities paving the way forward and coming out on top are those taking the time to understand their audience and look at them as humans first, then students.
Let’s take a look at some of the startling realities of a student’s world and the brilliant work institutions around the country are doing, putting students at the very center:
Understanding why students drop out
In many cases, those who drop out of college do not make that decision for purely academic reasons. Instead, it may be due to conflicting priorities such as childcare, or financial reasons, for which a part-time job will no longer cut it. And in many instances, universities are seeing alarming retention rates, with promising students dropping off the map. San Francisco State wanted to do something about this and knew it had to be more than just the average retention comm.
The college understood that they had a moral imperative to do better for their students, and launched a program that aimed to reconnect with students who never came back after previous terms. If they saw that a dropped-out student had a financial hold on their account or owed a balance, the college would contact them to talk about waivers or payment plans. At the forefront of this program they understand that students don’t just disengage with their education because they’re bored, so sending out flashy communications in an attempt to re-engage won’t work. Today’s students have real problems that need real solutions and if your institution can relieve those problems with a thought-out, tailored approach, you can make a real difference when it comes to retention and re-enrollment.
Basic needs first, then education
Like we said, students are faced with real, crippling issues that prevent them from even thinking about what assignment is due or when tuition is this semester. Alarmingly, in 2020, Hope Center ran a survey of 202 colleges and universities and found nearly three in five students experience “basic-needs insecurity”. We’re talking food, shelter. Nearly three in five. Those numbers are incredibly alarming, and as an institution, it’s a major challenge you’re faced with. How can you help these students, for their well-being, first and foremost, but so they can also succeed, complete their program and enjoy their time with you at your institution?
One college in Texas, Amarillo College, sent out a survey to their students asking about their out-of-class needs. Within 72 hours, 99 students had confirmed they were homeless. It’s a scary picture, but with the help and partnership of nonprofits in the area, the institution got these students free psychiatric help, legal aid and referrals to housing and utilities services.
The key to getting these students the help they need, is asking them in the first place. Having that two-way communication which allows colleges to build a picture, and understand the struggles students face. It is no longer enough to look at the surface level and see the students who drop out, and those who don't. Students who succeed, and those who don’t. In today’s climate, universities are faced with a tough uphill battle, but so are students, so ensure you’re putting their very genuine (and sometimes basic) needs at the core of everything you do and say, and work together on how to support the health and wellbeing of your classes.
If you would like to speak to our teams about retention strategies, research or nurture funnels, please get in touch today.