ERIC Identifier: ED361057
Publication Date: 1993-08-00
Author: Ignash, Jan M.
Source: ERIC Clearinghouse for
Community Colleges Los Angeles CA.
Challenging the "Revolving Door Syndrome." ERIC Digest.
Of the 5,376,000 students projected to attend two-year institutions in 1993
(Chronicle of Higher Education, 1992), a fair number will be caught in the
"revolving door syndrome." The phrase refers to the ease with which students are
able to enroll in community colleges and the equal ease with which they can drop
out. Implementing successful strategies to retain students until they achieve
their educational goals is a problem for many community colleges. Traditional
strategies for improving student retention rates have focused on assessment and
placement, orientation, counseling and academic advising, developmental
education, flexible and experimental instructional techniques, use of peer
tutors, faculty support and inservice training, and ancillary support services
(Roueche, 1983; Bushnell, 1991; Seidman, 1991). Many exemplary student retention
programs are currently operating in community colleges across the country; the
five described below provide practical strategies to foster improved student
AN INTERVENTION STRATEGY FOR STOP-OUTS: ST. LOUIS COMMUNITY
Past efforts at St. Louis Community College to increase student
retention have involved advising and counseling, academic support, academic
early warning systems, new-student orientation, and increased student activities
(Tichenor and Cosgrove, 1991, p. 74). None of the programs, however, resulted in
significant improvement of fall-to-spring retention rates. Institutional surveys
conducted between 1984 and 1989 revealed that roughly half of the non-returning
students had completed their educational goals and were "success" stories, while
an average of 31% had "stopped out" between fall and spring, usually for job
conflict or personal reasons. Of the stop-out students, an average of 16-17%
actually re-enrolled the following fall. College officials decided that these
stop-out students would be an effective target group for intervention strategies
to promote retention.
In the summer of 1990 a random sample of students who enrolled in fall 1989
but who failed to enroll the following spring semester were targeted for
intervention. All non-returning students were included in the intervention.
College officials felt that nondegree goal achievers and dropouts might also
benefit from additional encouragement, since they periodically return to campus
to follow lifelong learning goals. Two letters, signed by the Chancellor, were
sent to students who had stopped out in spring. The first letter indicated that
the student had been missed at the college during the spring semester and
expressed the college's continuing interest in the student. The second letter
was a reminder of fall registration. Results of a survey indicated that for
students who did not receive the letters, re-enrollment rates were 16.9%,
consistent with earlier years. The return rate for students who received
letters, however, was 18.6% overall, a statistically significant difference
(Tichenor and Cosgrove, 1991, p. 79). For white females, the return rate was
19.3%, and for black males, the rate was 22.4%. College officials concluded that
it is worthwhile to survey non-returning students to discover whether they
intend to return. If students indicate an intention to return, they should not
be classified as dropouts, but rather "stop-outs" and targeted for intervention.
This study included any non-returning student. College officials point out,
however, that including nondegree goal achievers and dropouts in the mailings
may be a positive strategy, since both can benefit from additional
encouragement. Future evaluations to assess long-term impact of the intervention
DISTINGUISHING DROPOUTS FROM STOP-OUTS FROM OPT-OUTS: DEL MAR
At Del Mar College in Texas college officials believe that
understanding students' reasons for attending college, their reasons for not
returning, and their feelings about the college after they leave can assist in
developing appropriate retention policies. On a survey of 2,313 students who
were enrolled in fall 1990 but did not return in spring 1991, the top two
reasons cited by students for initially attending Del Mar were a need for "personal improvement" and "to be with interesting people" (Artman and Gore,
1992, p. 3). These reasons were rated higher than transfer and job training
options. Results of the survey indicate that college administrators need to
provide an appropriate social/cultural environment for today's students and
incorporate a more personal touch between the institution and the incoming
students. Recommended strategies included establishing a standardized
educational plan for all undeclared majors, using trained Advising Center staff
rather than faculty to advise students on course selection and programs, using
student government organizations to canvass students regarding their needs,
providing public relations staff to assist students during the first
registration session, and providing training sessions to teach students how to
use the college catalog to locate services. In dealing with the problem of
retaining underprepared students, college officials recommended an aggressive
study skills program along with a policy requiring students to consult with
instructors in person before dropping unwanted or difficult classes the week
before final exams.
PENNSYLVANIA COLLEGE OF TECHNOLOGY'S "ONE-STOP SHOPPING
Studies have shown that students form pivotal impressions about the
institution they will attend during the first week of school (Lenning et
al. in Bushnell ). At Pennsylvania College of Technology in
Williamsport, an Advising Center Project in place since December 1984 is aimed
at ensuring that students who are accepted by the college actually enroll in
classes and find their way successfully through the critical first days.
Testing, advising, and scheduling of new students is all accomplished in one
day. Distributing student ID cards, paying any necessary tuition deposits,
touring campus facilities, and checking out local housing and meal plan options
also take place at this time. Afternoon academic orientation sessions which are
department-specific, rather than campus-wide, are held. At the orientation
sessions, advisors and counselors help students plan their schedules and
realistically appraise their chances of success based on placement tests taken
during the morning session. College officials also telephone scheduled students
who do not show up at the orientation to ask if they wish to reschedule. The
first year this "one-stop-shopping model" was implemented, the mean of students
who were accepted and subsequently enrolled increased by 4% over the previous
five years. The model earned an outstanding retention program citation at the
1987 NACADA conference.
SORTING AND SUPPORTING: MIAMI-DADE COMMUNITY COLLEGE
Miami-Dade Community College, "sorting" and "supporting" procedures, as defined
in a typology developed by Beatty-Guenter (1992, p. 8-9), are used to promote
student retention. After admission, all entering students are "sorted" into
classes based upon their assessment test scores in reading, mathematics, and
writing. After placement, students are "supported" throughout their academic
program at the college through an outreach program which expresses institutional
concern. One of the intervention strategies which college officials claim has
reduced their dropout rate involves contacting students if they miss classes
(Roueche & Baker in Beatty-Guenter, 1992). A second strategy involves using
computerized Advisement and Graduation Information System (AGIS) to show
students not only what courses they have completed but also what courses are
still required to complete their programs.
RETAINING MINORITY STUDENTS: THE PUENTE PROGRAM
at 23 California community colleges, the Puente Project is an innovative
retention and transfer program designed for Chicano and Latino students.
Students are admitted into the program by placing at the remedial level in
English. The heart of the program is a two-semester sequence of English courses
team-taught by an English instructor and a Hispanic counselor. The
counselor-teacher teams receive inservice training in cultural and pedagogical
issues at summer retreats. Puente students are assigned mentors within the
Hispanic community who have similar occupational interests. A strong peer
support system also develops naturally among Puente students. Academic progress
is monitored throughout the program and counselors assist students with
financial aid, budgeting, and family concerns. A statewide Puente Program Office
assists students in transferring to the University of California system. The
success of the Puente Project is documented in reports from the California
Community Colleges' Chancellor's Office. In 1989, 83% of Puente students
successfully completed a developmental writing class, and 72% of these students
went on to complete English 1A successfully. While only one-third of 1% of the
Hispanic students enrolled in California community colleges in 1986 transferred
to the University of California, almost 7% of Puente students transfer to a UC
campus, with 26% overall transferring to California four-year colleges.
While further studies assessing the long-range
impact of retention efforts are needed, results from the above programs are
promising. Many community colleges today are exploring traditional and
innovative ways to assist their students to remain in college long enough to
achieve their educational goals. Retention-oriented policies foster a student's
right to succeed. Successful intervention strategies can thwart the revolving
door syndrome and keep students enrolled long enough to accomplish what they set
out to do.
"Almanac." Chronicle of Higher Education; v39 n1
Aug 20, 1992.
Artman, J.I., and Gore, R.C. "Meeting Individual Needs Fosters Retention."
1992. 20 pp. (ED 349 070).
Beatty-Guenter, P. "Sorting, Supporting, Connecting, and Transforming:
Student Retention Strategies at Community Colleges." Berkeley: University of
California, 1992. 61 pp. (ED 342 425).
Bushnell, J.R. "Retention at the Community College Level." 1991. 44 pp. (ED
Lenning, O.T., Sauer, K., and Beal, P.E. Student Retention Strategies.
Washington, D.C.: American Association for Higher Education, 1980.
Meznek, J., P. McGrath, and F. Galaviz. "The Puente Project." Sacramento, CA:
California Community Colleges, Office of the Chancellor, July 1989. 14 pp. (ED
Roueche, J., and Baker, G. Access and Excellence. Washington, D.C.: Community
College Press, 1987.
Roueche, S.D. "Elements of a Program Success: Report of a National Study." In
J.E. Roueche (ed.), A New Look at Successful Programs, p3-10. San Francisco:
Seidman, A. "The Evaluation of a Pre/Post Admissions/Counseling Process at a
Suburban Community College: Impact on Student Satisfaction with the Faculty and
the Institution, Retention, and Academic Performance." College and University
Journal; v66 n4 p223-32 Sum 1991.
Tichenor, R., and Cosgrove, J.J. "Evaluating Retention-Driven Marketing in a
Community College: An Alternative Approach." New Directions for Institutional
Research, v70. Edited by D. Hossler. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, Sum 91.