Monday, December 04, 2006

Popping the "Sophomore Dropout Bubble"

The Chronicle of Higher Education (9/8/06) had an article focusing on the large number of sophomores who drop out or transfer. The article looked at a number of reasons why there is an attrition bubble in the sophomore year. There is a very telling quote from Laurie A. Schreiner, Prof of Higher Education and Organizational Leadership at Azusa Pacific University. Professor Schreiner states “It’s a gradual weaning process…all of a sudden the gloves come off, and this is real college.”

Ahh, there it is. Freshman year is not real college? And real college is tough – meant to wean out the weak that should not be in college anyhow. Most every freshman will disagree. It was a tough year. But what she may mean is that in the freshman year students are treated with care, concern and customer service. Sophomore year… Well, screw ‘em? Let them sink?

What is clear here and at most every college is that in the freshman year customer service is considered by many colleges sort of like the Xmas spirit. For a week, people are kind to their fellow man and woman, give donations for the poor, help out those who may need assistance. Then after the holiday, it’s back to WIFM and “hey I gave at the office”.

Now, some people will be kind and helpful all year long and those are the colleges that do not experience the sophomore slump. They pay attention to students, their needs and expectations and provide good customer service throughout the freshman, sophomore, junior, senior and super senior years as if they all mattered.

The solution to the sophomore attrition bubble is easy. Treat students as if they matter every day, every year.

Education is a service industry in which the clients/students make a decision about the level and value of the service everyday, and even many times a day. They skip a class for example if they do not feel it is worth going. They actually judge the school’s concern for them every single day. They decide daily if they are currebtly getting and believe they will get the requisite financial, emotional and affective returns on their investment. If the answers are not at least, "I guess so" the bubble pops right then and there - sophomore year or not.

Then when they have a break – weekends, vacations, semester breaks – they determine if they are going to return on Monday. If they feel they are at Cheers University “where everyone knows their name and is awfully glad they came” they return. Or if they are being forced to attend Dr. House’s clinic where he may be a good doctor but clearly does not give a damn about them, they will seek new doctors.

It is customer service, care, and concern that is the major determinant of the attrition rate as indicated in the blog article Why Students Leave and What You Can Do Today to Retain Them.It shows that 72% of students leave a college due to poor customer service – each and every year. Actuallly, each and every hour of each and every day.

Care about students and retain them.

If there are any issues or topics I can help with, feel very free to call 413.219.6939 or email.

I will be pleased to help out and do it for the pleasure of helping keep students in school.

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