Maximizing Your Retention Committee


Author
Brett L. Bruner, Ed.D., Public Policy Representative

Published
May 10, 2019


Two weeks ago, Arkansas Tech University hosted the NASPA Region IV-West Spring Critical Conversations Event – the Every Student Counts: Student Persistence and First-Generation Student Conference. Over 325 individuals from 51 institutions and 5 states convened at the ATU campus to network, learn, and share ideas, challenges, and promising practices related to student persistence, retention, and success. As I reflect on my own experiences working with student persistence, retention, and success over the past several years, my thoughts revolved around one of the most commonly used strategies on college campuses: the university retention committee. How do we maximize these committees so that they do not succumb to challenges that many college and university committees do?

According to Tannous and Moore (2013), “about 75 percent of four-year institutions maintain an institutional retention committee” (p. 11). These university retention committees guide the institutional agenda and advocate for policy change regarding matters related to student persistence, retention, degree completion, and student success. Retention committees are most often used to develop long-term retention strategies and, once plans are approved, view student persistence and retention from a strategic perspective (Tannous & Moore, 2013). While they are quite commonly found on campuses, Culver (2015) found that almost half of higher education institutions participating in the Ruffalo-Noel Levitz Student Retention and College Completion Practices Benchmark Report perceived the role of their university retention committee was to simply gather and share information, rather than guiding the institutional agenda and advocating for changes to support student success.

Jones (2012) clearly articulated the role of institutions in intentionally establishing environments that will set university-wide retention committees up for success. Jones articulated that the first step for establishing a high-functioning campus retention committee is to clearly articulate the purpose of the committee. Too often, as Jones identified, university retention committees are challenged to accomplish set goals when they do not fully understand the purpose and charge of their committee. As Jones identified, is the campus retention committee’s charge to “act, investigate, and/or report” (p. 11) on matters related to student persistence and retention.

As you think about your campus retention committee, how do you provide a charge to your campus retention committee that prepares its members to be successful?

  • Investigate: Will your committee have the authority and/or responsibility to review available data connecting to student persistence and retention, identifying trends and similarities, and staying aware of state, regional, and national research focused on emerging trends in retention and graduation?
  • Recommend: Will your committee have the institutional agency to use the data and trends identified in the investigation process to recommend programs, events, services, interventions, and initiatives to support student persistence efforts. The work of these recommendations may or may not be carried out by individual departments at the institution.
  • Monitor: Will your committee be charged to receive reports on recommended actions on an identified timetable (quarterly, semesterly, annually, etc.)?
  • Advocate: How will your committee and its members model the way in advocating for issues of student retention through educating peers about trends, engaging in dialogue, and recognizing individuals for their contributions to student success, persistence, and retention?

Only when we set clear goals and roles for our university retention committees will they feel prepared to and gain traction on moving the needle on student persistence, retention, and success on our campuses.

Two weeks ago, Arkansas Tech University hosted the NASPA Region IV-West Spring Critical Conversations Event – the Every Student Counts: Student Persistence and First-Generation Student Conference. Over 325 individuals from 51 institutions and 5 states convened at the ATU campus to network, learn, and share ideas, challenges, and promising practices related to student persistence, retention, and success. As I reflect on my own experiences working with student persistence, retention, and success over the past several years, my thoughts revolved around one of the most commonly used strategies on college campuses: the university retention committee. How do we maximize these committees so that they do not succumb to challenges that many college and university committees do?

According to Tannous and Moore (2013), “about 75 percent of four-year institutions maintain an institutional retention committee” (p. 11). These university retention committees guide the institutional agenda and advocate for policy change regarding matters related to student persistence, retention, degree completion, and student success. Retention committees are most often used to develop long-term retention strategies and, once plans are approved, view student persistence and retention from a strategic perspective (Tannous & Moore, 2013). While they are quite commonly found on campuses, Culver (2015) found that almost half of higher education institutions participating in the Ruffalo-Noel Levitz Student Retention and College Completion Practices Benchmark Report perceived the role of their university retention committee was to simply gather and share information, rather than guiding the institutional agenda and advocating for changes to support student success.

Jones (2012) clearly articulated the role of institutions in intentionally establishing environments that will set university-wide retention committees up for success. Jones articulated that the first step for establishing a high-functioning campus retention committee is to clearly articulate the purpose of the committee. Too often, as Jones identified, university retention committees are challenged to accomplish set goals when they do not fully understand the purpose and charge of their committee. As Jones identified, is the campus retention committee’s charge to “act, investigate, and/or report” (p. 11) on matters related to student persistence and retention.

 

As you think about your campus retention committee, how do you provide a charge to your campus retention committee that prepares its members to be successful?

·         Investigate: Will your committee have the authority and/or responsibility to review available data connecting to student persistence and retention, identifying trends and similarities, and staying aware of state, regional, and national research focused on emerging trends in retention and graduation?

·         Recommend: Will your committee have the institutional agency to use the data and trends identified in the investigation process to recommend programs, events, services, interventions, and initiatives to support student persistence efforts. The work of these recommendations may or may not be carried out by individual departments at the institution.

·         Monitor: Will your committee be charged to receive reports on recommended actions on an identified timetable (quarterly, semesterly, annually, etc.)?

·         Advocate: How will your committee and its members model the way in advocating for issues of student retention through educating peers about trends, engaging in dialogue, and recognizing individuals for their contributions to student success, persistence, and retention?

 

Only when we set clear goals and roles for our university retention committees will they feel prepared to and gain traction on moving the needle on student persistence, retention, and success on our campuses.


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