Friday, October 10, 2014

Why Students Left a College 2014



While doing on-campus retention studies and customer service audits plus contacting students who had left a college or university, NRaisman &
Associates interviewed 864 students who had left a college. The students and contact information came from some of our client schools.  We interviewed students who had left a college or university at least six months prior to the interview.

The passage of six months to a year as well as our non-affiliation with any particular college or university provided the students the distance and anonymity for more open discussion on actual attrition causes. The students were randomly selected. They were often at their new college, one where we had been hired to perform an audit or present training.

What we discovered is not what former students might tell a school official. Students leaving a school will generally play to the interviewer during their meetings. Students will often tell the interviewer one or another vague reason for leaving the college. The most common reason students give a school official falls under the category of a personal issue or problem which is actually not the real reason or excuse the student has for leaving the school. Research has found that students correctly assume that the interviewer will either not dig into their personal lives or will buy the vague soap opera they spin. We do love a good story, even if it may not be true or the real reason the student is leaving.

Keep in mind that the student is trying to leave the school and she realizes that the job of the exit interviewer is not just to learn why the student is leaving but to try and change her mind about leaving.

Students know that the interviewer wants to discover why the student wants to leave and then find some way to either fix the problem or talk the student into staying. But that is in direct opposition to the student‘s goal of getting the-----out of here. So when the enrollment counselor asks why she wants to leave, the student goes with the easiest escape route. I‘m leaving for personal reasons that I‘d rather not go into.”

Students know they if they claim personal reasons for having to leave college, most officials are happy to accept that for two main reasons. First, most institutions accept that a personal reason is a valid basis to leave school. There is a box on some form that can be checked for accounting purposes. Second, if students leave for personal reasons, neither the college nor the individual are really accountable for some failure in the department, school or our so-called systems. After all, we can't be held responsible for their personal problems, can we? A student leaving for as personal reason is not dropping due to any fault of the school after all. Neither the college nor the enrollment management team has to take a negative check against its reputation if a student has to leave due to some personal issue.

But when N.Raisman & Associates personnel dug a bit, it was discovered that the personal problems reported fell into a few major categories which indicate that departing students do have a sort of personal issue—a customer service issue—with the school.

The most significant reason why students left a school was again that they felt the school did not care about them. They felt often that the college worked hard to recruit and enroll them but once they were there the college just assumed they would stay and did little to show that it cared about them being there. A full 26% percent felt this way.

Poor service accounted for 23% of the reasons why students left. This is of course an allied response to the college does not care about me since the service was obtained, or not, by students who then interpreted the poor service often as the college does not care about me. These two categories together account for 50% of responses.

The percentages of the reasons why students left are as follows:
College Doesn’t Care    26%
Poor Service                24%
Not Worth It               18%
Finances                     13%
Scheduling                  13%
Grades                        3%
Academic Quality          2%
(percentages are rounded to closest whole number)



That would mean that the total for customer service related reasons for leaving a school (College Doesn’t Care 26%; Poor Service 24%; Not worth it 18%; and scheduling 13%) are equal to 81% of the total attrition.


There was one area that jumped enough since the last study to require additional discussion. That is the category of scheduling. It increased by 3% from the last study and has been increasing each time we conducted the study into why students left a college. 

As schools are trying to cut their costs they are cutting sections. The schools usually decide to cut a section they feel is not fully enough enrolled to warrant offering it. This is not always true by the way as discussed in The Power of Retention: More Customer Service for Higher Education. That discussion is on  how to figure the actual costs of cancelling a class. But colleges usually have some go-no go number like ten students in a section for it to be allowed to be offered. What the schools do is to create some horrid customer service by cancelling the class in the last week or two. When a class is cancelled in the last weeks just before a start of the semester for example that totally disrupts the student’s life. She has planned her whole life around the schedule she thought he had. She has made arrangement for her hours at work not to conflict with her classes. If a mother, has set up babysitting arrangements around the class schedule. Then in the last moment the college cancels the class and her life is turned upside down when she can’t get another class at the same time as the cancelled on.  Moreover, if she can’t get another class that fits her schedule and major she may be a section short on being a full time student and that will affect financial aid. She might not be able to afford to go to school as a result of the cancelled class.

Canceling sections can be simply horrible customer service that can tip a student into giving up or at least stopping put maybe not to ever return to the school.


If this article made sense you'll want to get the new book From A to G (Admissions to Graduation): Achieving Growth through Academic
Customer Service by Dr. Neal Raisman
NRaisman & Associates has been providing customer service, retention and research solutions to colleges, universities and career colleges in the US, Canada, and Europe as well as to businesses that seek to work with them since 1999. Clients range from small rural schools to major urban universities and corporations. Its services range from campus customer service audits; workshops, training, presentations, institutional studies and surveys to research on customer service and retention. NRaisman & Associates prides itself on its record of success for its clients and students who are aided through the firm’s services. www.GreatServiceMatters.com 413.219.6939 info@GreatServiceMatters.com

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Are Students More Angry Now?

It’s been a very busy two weeks of giving presentations all over the country. And there has been a common question coming up in as diverse places as
Rock Springs WY, NYC and Conway, AK . “Are students more upset today than they were in the past?”
My answer surprised a few folks. “Yes. They are.”
Students are more easily upset and even prone to outbursts of anger more this year than they have been in the past. People are even hearing more gerunds coming up in discussions with them. Gerunds? Words ending in “–ing” used in phrases such as “this #%&ing school”.

Students as customers are reflections of our society and the result of the culture’s culture or lack of it. And today’s national culture is one of free floating antagonism, anger and attack. They and the campus are not separate or isolated from what is going on in our society.  In fact they bring the societal mood and the messages that are floating in our society onto campus, into the halls and classrooms each and every day.

And right now our national mood is rather dour if not out and out nasty. The politics of politics and everyday life are combative and aggressive. Everywhere one turns the message is attack what you don’t agree with. Even to the point of physical as well as verbal abuse. Just this morning there were reports of pastors polluting the funerals or soldiers with messages thanking G-d for killing them, people beating and torturing men simply because they were born gay, politicians making outrageous claims and attach ads; TV and radio pundits smearing and assaulting anyone and everyone with whom they might disagree with attack words and statements against anyone they may disagree with as well as a very heated level of discourse with an emphasis on the dis in our society. I and you can feel the anger and you can be sure our students do too.

I am not a language prude in any way and have been known to use some strong words myself but I am surprised how crass and low our use of language has become. Words we would have only used when deeply provoked or not at all are now common (and yes I chose that word purposefully) in everyday discussion. The gerunds fly.

All of this accompanied with the ever increasing costs of attending college have made our students into angrier and mess tolerant consumers.  There is a clear and consistent relationship between the cost of a product or service and the demands that a consumer/customer places on it. The higher the cost or the stress to pay for something, the greater the demand that it perform at a level equal to expectations for the product or service. So as tuition and the hidden tuition we call fees keep climbing the increases push expectations to higher levels.

The expansion of college throughout the society making college a rite of passage to a job rather than to the upper and middle class has also made higher education familiar and taken away the mystique of academia. Familiarity does breed contempt in some cases and college is one of them. As more and more people have gone to college and been in contact with the denizens of academia, they have seen how some do have what appears to be an easy life or are not responsive to their needs.

Couple higher expectations with lowered behavior levels and that is a formula for bad customer behavior that often comes out in the common statement “I pay your salary.” So, yes, students are more demanding/difficult.


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Thursday, September 18, 2014

Promise Less, Deliver More

There is actually something worse than delivering poor or weak service. And that is promising great service and then not delivering. Or mollifying the customer by telling him or her you’ll look into the situation, will get it resolved and either do not get it resolved or not get back to the customer.
Say a student or customer comes to you and asks for help. Perhaps a student leaves a phone message or an email account of the problem asking for you to assist in a problem he or she has. You get back to him or her by telephone but miss the person. So you leave a message.

I am sorry to hear that you feel you may have a problem……..

(Yes we do use the conditional all the way through to protect ourselves as the HR and lawyers taught us to do. May, perhaps, could, maybe, might, possibly, or combinations might possibly may perhaps have an issue…..But never simply say, holy sh%t, he did that? Never commit or accede. That’s the way to please the lawyers but perhaps, maybe, possibly upset the customer more.) But then we go and commit to look into it and make what the student takes as a promise.
…I will look into the issue, see if anything can be done and get back to you as soon as I can.

Granted soon is… well to us it is a sensible period of time as we see it. Soon as I can get the information, or contact the person, or find if there is a problem or even if there is a solution. To a customer or student with a problem, soon is now or by the end of the day, if not …well if not sooner.
Or the person tells the student, I’ll look into it and get back to you by Friday. If you make that commitment you’d better get back by Friday. That is a promise of delivery of service that the student customer will expect to be fulfilled. And rightly so.
Or the person has been to the legal seminar on commitment so he says I’ll get back to you by Friday if I have anything to tell you. There’s the conditional again. If I have anything to tell you. Covers you. Right? Nah it doesn’t because what the student hears is I’ll get back to you by Friday period. The expectation is that you will have something to tell him or her even if it is I have nothing to tell you yet.

This is the psychological background the student brings to any conversation in which service is offered/promised. Offered by you. Promised in the mind of the student. And soon is now. Oh yes, let’s not forget, the student expects a solution especially if you or your school tries to claim it cares about it students. And well you should because we are there for student success which is our success.

What is above is essentially the same we expect from service providers we pay. For instance right now I am getting quite frustrated by a guy who put in some tiling in a bathroom so I could work on my new book. There were a couple tiles that were not quite right. They need to be taken out and replaced. He said he’d be here at 9 a.m. It is now 11:25. He has failed. I will let him know so by the rating I will give him on Angies’s List. I will also tell anyone needing a tile person not to hire him. For him and a college that disappoints on promised service the Malthusian Custopmer Service Progression definitely comes into play here. Students may not go to Angie’s List to comp-lain. They will show their dissatisfaction by ending up on the drop list. Then they will tell everyone who even hints at asking about college or why he dropped out.
So here it is.
The Six Point Solution to Proper Call Backs
When you tell a student you will look into IT:
  1. If you are not sure when you will have an answer - say you are not sure when you will be able to get back but I will get back to you.
  1. If you know you can get back on a certain date – say you will get back by XXXXday but I cannot promise I will have an answer/solution. Then, MAKE DAMN SURE YOU CALL ON THAT DAY even if all you have to say is I don’t have answer but I am working on it. Then provide an update on what you and/or others have been doing.
  1. If you get a resolution or answerer sooner than when you told him or her to expect an answer it is okay to give good news early.
  1. If you are not able to call back on time, it is imperative that someone calls for you and givers an apology and an update for you. Though do realize the customer will surely believe you just don’t want to talk with him. Not a god thing but better than no call at all on the anointed date.
  1. You can let someone else call back with good news. No one complains if you let someone else tell them good news.
  1. You cannot let someone else call with bad news. If you do, you will create a doubly angry person who will eventually come to see you anyhow as if to check if what he heard was really true.
Finally, DO NOT SAY YOUI’LL CALL AND DON’T DO IT AT ALL. That will make the student feel like a jilted lover. And you’ve seen the movies about the rejected lover and the rabbit or the guy in the hockey mask.
That’s right. Michael Myers was expecting that call from the Dean that never came. Look what happened!!!
BTW, I am waiting to hear from a major communication (internet, cable, telephone) company that has promised to call back and said it will try to help on two issues. If the company which I won’t name just yet but WOW, they were named as the best by Consumer Reports for service. But at this time, it seems local service is good but WOW, some of the corporate…. They may be trying but need to read this piece and not let passive aggressive types work with customers. Nor should you for that matter. I mean WOW, use the right WAY to do things.
IF THIS ARTICLE MAKES SENSE TO YOU, YOU WILL WANT TO OBTAIN A COPY OF THE BEST-SELLING NEW BOOK ON RETENTION AND ACADEMIC CUSTOMER SERVICE THE POWER OF RETENTION: MORE CUSTOMER SERVICE IN HIGHER EDUCATION by clicking here
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Neal is a pleasure to work with – his depth of knowledge and engaging, approachable style creates a strong connection with attendees. He goes beyond the typical, “show up, talk, and leave” experience that some professional speakers use. He “walks the talk” with his passion for customer service. We exchanged multiple emails prior to the event, with his focus being on meeting our needs, understanding our organization and creating a customized presentation. Neal also attended and actively participated in our evening-before team-building event, forging positive relationships with attendees – truly getting to know them. Personable, knowledgeable, down-to-earth and inspiring…. " Jean Wolfe, Training Manager, Davenport University

“We had hoped we’d improve our retention by 3% but with the help of Dr. Raisman, we increased it by 5%.” Rachel Albert, Provost, University of Maine-Farmington

“Neal led a retreat that initiated customer service and retention as a real focus for us and gave us a clear plan. Then he followed up with presentations and workshops that kicked us all into high gear. We recommend with no reservations; just success.” Susan Mesheau, Executive Director U First: Integrated Recruitment & Retention University of New Brunswick, CA

“Thank you so much for the wonderful workshop at Lincoln Technical Institute. It served to re-center ideas in a great way. I perceived it to be a morale booster, breath of fresh air, and a burst of passion.”
Shelly S, Faculty Member, Lincoln Technical Institute


Thursday, September 04, 2014

How to Deal with a Mean Faculty Member

How have you handled an instructor that habitually starts a semester with 25 students and ends up with 7?

This question came to me from an administrator the other day and is one that plagues many. The situation can be a tricky one considering interpretations (usually by weak teachers) that academic freedom can mean that some faculty can be insufferable bastards to students, colleagues and certainly administrators. Moreover, faculty too often will take the approach that they may really dislike a colleague, but they must protect his or her right to be miserable. To do otherwise might be taken as not collegial, not academic, not my job. BTW, this is not necessarily different among administrators whose job it is to deal with any and every person who treats students and colleagues poorly. Administrators do not always accept the responsibility. It is everyone’s’ job to demand civility and initial respect toward one and all and especially for our clients, the students.

Customer Service Principle 8 makes it clear that so called “collegiality” which is an excuse for not getting involved is not the correct approach when students are hurt.

8. Just because someone else did a dis-service or harm
does not relieve you of correcting the injury.

We have a responsibility to be a part of the correction no matter if we are faculty, administration or staff. But since the question was posed by an administrator, I will provide the appropriate point of view and action.

Assuming the instructor is tenured and you have a union to contend with Begin by consulting the instructor’s evaluations from students, current and past. Sure he or she will not have many now or in most class sections because 18 have already quit from most every class of twenty-five. But the remaining seven may have some hints or even outright direction. Keep in mind however that the remaining students might be so intimidated that their written comments could be compromised. Though the studies since John Centra in the 80’s show that if students feel secure in their anonymity, their evaluations can be quite valid.
Look for any comments that might help clarify and if necessary build the case for scaring students off or treating them so poorly that they leave. Compare the evaluations to other faculty teaching the same course or who have taught the course in the past. 

Compile the past history of drops for this professor in this and all courses. Compare the drop patterns of this professor to those of others who have taught the same course or courses to make determine if the drop pattern is an anomaly for the professor or in comparison to colleagues. What needs to be established is if there is a significant variance from the norm for this instructor in this section. It may be found that this professor has retention problems in all his or her classes. That’s an even bigger problem. If there is a pattern that helps build your case for change.

I make an assumption here based on my studies and experience that this is a required course such as composition in which the fewer students, the less grading and work. I did have to handle a similar situation when i was Dean of Liberal Arts at a college. The professor was threatening the students with low grades just to lower his workload.

Keep in mind that the instructor will likely use the old dodge of “I happen to have high standards and the students left because they …”
  1. couldn’t cut it;
  2. didn’t want to do the work;
  3. were afraid of low grades;
  4. were imbeciles who did not recognize my greatness;
  5. should not have been in the class in the first place;
  6. not college material and the admission people do a crappy job;
  7. need to weed out those who shouldn’t be here;
  8. I am too good for them and they just could not keep up;
  9. all of the above.
  10. And , I am really a self-centered ass who never should have gone into teaching but I thought it would be easy which it isn’t and I do not wish to work that hard so maybe I will just become an administrator like you who does nothing but east bob-bons all day, or so I believe and besides, I am active in the union and always act in a disagreeable manner in faculty and other meetings just because I can.”
You should also interview students who dropped from the class and past classes to hear from them why they left. BTW, you must keep an open mind during the inquiry. It may just be a huge coincidence….. All eighteen may just have had their hours changes at work each and every semester or term. (Okay so those sorts of coincidences are like the disappearance of Sweeny Todd customers and the appearance of oddly tasting meat cakes in a time of a meat shortage. Good musical by the way and it may have some solutions to how to rid oneself of teachers who scare off students with poor to horrible customer service.) The students who dropped can help you understand and if called for, build your case.

Work with the Union 
The union will need to defend this professor even if they agree he or she is a disgrace to the faculty and hurts people. That is their job and are required to defend. They also may wish to see the person fall into a deep hole in the ground and be assigned to late registration at Hades U for eternity but it is their legal and ethical responsibility to defend the individual. This is an issue that more people need to understand. Unions can also be reasonable if confronted with evidence so they have some wiggle room but may not feel at all comfortable being public with their agreement. Behind the scenes, another story so do all you can to explain the situation and provide them data. Keep in kind also that the union folks are also colleagues of the professor and may also be rather disgusted by his behavior but cannot indicate that in public. They can support your position and help persuade the professor that it is in his best interests to work with you on a solution though.

To take action with possible union support., as I was able to do when a Dean, you will need to be able to show that students left because the instructor is:
  1. a mean S.O.B. who should not be in a classroom
  2. a miserable teacher
  3. disrespectful of students
  4. has poor to horrible people skills
  5. forgets the students are human and clients of the school
  6. deliberately scaring students to decrease the workload
  7. embarrassing the faculty
  8. all of the above.
Consult the contract on the issues of professional training, on unprofessional conduct and progressive discipline. Make certain what the contract allows for in altering professional and pedagogical behavior and /or disciplining the professor. Check your interpretation with the HR person to avoid legal action through a mis-application of contract language.
When the case is built, consult with the union or whatever grievance system you have. Provide them the information you have collected to establish that the instructor needs assistance to change his or her ways. Let them know that changes must be made through progressive discipline (if called for in the contract, past practice or an HR person who wants to keep you and the school from being sued).

Then
After providing progressive discipline, meet with the instructor (and union or grievance) rep and present the situation, the supporting materials and the choices. By the way, always have another administrator with you as a witness to the conversation in case it is needed later. Present the situation, the potential actions and the possible solution. With a little luck, the professor will buy into the solution. If not, and you can make the assignment, assign him or her to the course of action developed and monitor progress.
A course of action should have been developed and put in writing depending on why the numbers dropped so drastically and what contractual remedies are allowed. If it is that he or she has poor teaching skills, then it may be possible to assign the professor to substitute some coursework on pedagogy for some of the teaching load or in addition to the normal teaching load. (Some of it depends on how much you wish to reform and keep the person.) If the instructor is just being an SOB, then it must be made clear that this behavior is not acceptable and perhaps a course in interpersonal 
communication or counseling is called for. Or perhaps this is the start of progressive discipline that could lead to re-assignment or even dismissal. 

Should it be that the teacher does not realize that students are clients and deserve being valued and treated with respect and value, send him or her to one of my training sessions or sign him or her up for personal coaching with me. Okay, maybe I was drumming up business but it is a consideration. I can recommend other coaches who work with me too. At least, have them learn from someone about academic customer service and learn how to practice it.
If the person is not tenured, it makes the above much easier. If you wish to keep the professor, provide a simple choice. Accept the course of action, resign or be let go. If the person is not someone you have reason to want to keep, notify whom you must and do not renew a contract.

Granted, this is a bit general. It does not focus on any particular situation and real situations can often be much stickier and complicated. So, if you or anyone else has any additional questions, clarifications and help on an individual situation, get in touch by clicking here. I’ll do what I can to help. If you wish to add or propose other courses of action, please write in and we will post them

If this article made sense you'll want to get the new book From A to G (Admissions to Graduation): Achieving Growth through Academic Customer Service by Dr. Neal Raisman
NRaisman & Associates has been providing customer service, retention and research solutions to colleges, universities and career colleges in the US, Canada, and Europe as well as to businesses that seek to work with them since 1999. Clients range from small rural schools to major urban universities and corporations. Its services range from campus customer service audits; workshops, training, presentations, institutional studies and surveys to research on customer service and retention. NRaisman & Associates prides itself on its record of success for its clients and students who are aided through the firm’s services. www.GreatServiceMatters.com 413.219.6939 info@GreatServiceMatters.com