Sunday, August 15, 2010

Customer Service Guaranteed Retention Increase 7: Accept Students Who CAN Succeed and Help Them Do So

 student success, retention, customer service in college, dropouts. student service, attrition, college retention, college drops
Customer Service Guaranteed Retention Increase 7: Accept Students Who CAN Succeed and Help Them Do So
If colleges and universities actually did accept and enroll students who actually had a chance to succeed at the school, retention would increase. This is not in any way a statement of agreement with those who believe that the problem is that “admissions just needs to get us better students.” Not at all. The reality is that colleges and universities need to realize that there needs to be a good fit between the customer and the service provider; between the student and school.  To admit students who are not appropriate to the campus and its educational as well as social demands is to invite attrition.

Underlying a lot of student reasoning for leaving a school is a strong feeling that “It is just not worth it. I don't fit here.”  Some of the reason why students are not happy at a school is that the college has failed in its ethical and initial screening process to develop a good match between client and school. For example,  a school has accepted students who should not have been.  Perhaps they are not a good emotional or social fit. For example, to meet quotas, some rural schools recruited urban students of color into areas in which there were no or very few other people of color. This is a sure recipe for retention as well as acculturation problems. The same is true of many rural students recruited into a very urban surrounding though the lure of a large city with its excitement can overcome some issues.

In other cases, students who really did not have the emotional or intellectual capacity to succeed in a college were accepted anyhow even with the school knowing it would be enrolling students who would not meet its standards. 

Too many colleges, universities and career colleges suffer form an indolent illness known as enrollment ethics deficit. It is a syndrome caused by an ethical deficiency and misunderstanding of admissions and retention. This ethical deficit leads to a hallucinatory state in which schools hear voices about higher callings and winnowing that justify aberrant behavior toward students and their success.

The syndrome seems to interfere with the ethical pathways between recruitment promises of concern, help, graduation and a parasitical drive to let the students die off once they have paid tuition and external financial support is in place. A common symptom is the college’s belief that it is correct to watch students waste away, disappear or die off through attrition. This leads to allied retention and institutional budget deficit syndrome called institutional lepcrotosis in which members of the community wonder why parts of the college seem to be drying up and need to be cut.

The onset of the syndrome comes from a calloused belief that we do not owe students everything we promise them when we recruit and admit them. One hallmark of the syndrome is an indifference to the simple fact that when a college, university or career college accepts a student as well as his or her money, the institution is making a contract with the student. The core of the contract is the exchange of money for services leading to graduation. That’s what students are really paying for. To graduate and get a job. It may not be what faculty want to hear but it is the truth just as they were in college to get the degrees needed for a job as a faculty member.

Enrollment ethical deficiency syndrome is dangerous but ingrained in the environment. It has become an indigenous disease that has affected even good people. They begin to overlook the root cause of the disease and enter into a parasitic relationship with it. They accept the idea that attrition is okay, even good for the institution as long as we can feed the illness with more and more fresh recruits leading to a churn and burn approach to population.  Recruit more and more students who will drop out to try to stall the negative effects of attrition.

But that will not work. The only way to defeat the disease is recognize it and not feed it. Recruit students who can succeed or make sure we give the students we recruit all the services, assistance and attention they need to succeed. Do not let short-term revenue hurt the students’ or the institutions’ long-term. Moreover, if schools did as much to retain students as enroll them, there would not be many money issues.

Schools recruit and enroll students they realize will likely drop out because their tuition and fees pay for the institution’s operations including salaries, benefits and fringes like release time and research. There are students who get scholarships but the money for these come from endowments or operational funds to get these students to come to school and fill the class. And scholarships are used to close the deal.

Most every college recruits to fill a class and the budget. Students are promised that in exchange for your money the school will supply all that was promised during recruitment plus all the services needed to graduate. When we sell students on the school and then let them in we are saying to them that we believe you can be successful. Success equals graduating. Exchange of money for services equals a contract.

The way to avoid the syndrome entirely is to only accept students who can succeed. That will call for acceptance of budgetary limitations of course so it is likely that many schools would rather argue that weak students are being admitted rather than reduce class size and revenues. But, if a school accepts a student knowing that he or she may come from a high school or life that may not have prepared as it might wish, it must also accept responsibility to provide all the services and help the student may need to get to graduation. If schools accept students with the idea that we know they can’t make it to graduation but we will give them the opportunity to pay us money while we know he or she will likely fail, that is unethical enrollment. It is also a guaranteed way to assure attrition.

Customer Service Guaranteed Retention Increase 8: Train Everyone in Academic Customer Service to Create a Retention Culture
When colleges and universities have training in academic customer service, it is usually focused on those who are classified as staff. This is an error for two reasons. Students have contact and service interactions with everyone on campus from the president on up. This is not to take away the need for staff to be trained in academic customer service as discussed earlier. Not at all. It is instead to realize that everyone in the college or university is staff to the student. Everyone is there to serve the academic service needs of students. Everyone and an one individual can have the effect on an individual student that will guide him or her into greater engagement with the institution or guide him out the door.

Every member of the college community needs to understand at least the core aspects of academic, not retail, customer service and that affects the student’s learning as well as the individual campus community member’s future. Staff do need to learn how to properly answer the phone, email or return them; but so do all members of the community. Staff need to know how to say hello to students and try to help them; but again, so do all members of the campus community. Faculty need to know how to teach students in the class but then again, all members of the community needs to be able to reach students as part of ending the shuffle. People have to be taught how to overcome attitudes of academic caste that place students and staff at the bottom of the system. The bottom line is that everyone at a college needs to learn what academic customer service is, how it leads to appropriate caring for and support to students to help them stay in school, graduate and become alumni.

One place to start is by making everyone aware of the 15 Principles of Good Academic Customer Service. These are currently being finalized for an update so if you'd like a copy of the new Principles, just request them at They will be available on August 18.

If this article and the preceding parts of it on this zine were of value, you will want to get a copy of The Power of Retention available from The Administrator's Bookshelf

You will also want to bring Dr. Raisman to your campus for some training or an audit that is guaranteed to increase retention. There are a few more dates available in 2010 but CONTACT US NOW TO ASSURE YOUR RETENTION AND ACADEMIC CUSTOMER SERVICE SUCCESS.

BTW, the firm's name will be changing to N.Raisman & Assoc/Center on Retention as we expand services and experts to meet current and future clients' needs.

No comments: