Monday, April 17, 2017

People Make Success

The following is from an abstract of a paper Twenty Years of First-Year Student Success: An Inventory of Strategies and Programs That Work by DeLaine Priest, Stephanie Gisler and Maribeth Ebasz of the University of Central Florida's Student Development & Enrollment Services. In it they recount and explain what UCF has dome of the last twenty years to increase their retention from 70% in 1994 to 87.5% in 2014 as the school grew from 25,000 t0 61,000. The authors write:

This paper describes strategies and programs that have been crucial drivers for the increase in retention as well as contributors to overall academic achievement in first-year students. Tutoring, academic advising, coaching, career readiness, and student engagement are among the strategies and programs that will be examined in this paper. Additionally, specific programs offered through offices such as the Office of Student Involvement, the Recreation and Wellness Center, and Housing and Residence Life will be described

The paper goes on to describe the particulars of what the University did to achieve that success. What it did in an nutshell l was provide excellent academic customer service to its students.They focused on delivering excellent services to students to keep them in the University and make others want to enroll in it.

Re-reading the section above and the rest of the paper makes one point absolutely clear. What works is engagement and specifically, engagement with people; not technology but people delivering great customer service in areas such as advising.In every activity described in the section from the abstract and in the full paper, a human being is involved in the interaction with the student. People make or break a retention and enrollment program's success.

Much of the enrollment growth at UCF comes from their strength in providing the academic customer service that keeps students at the University. ,They are adding more students each year rather than making up for attrition losses with the incoming freshman and transfer classes as was
discussed  in the piece called Zeno's Paradox, I Love Lucy and Admissions. They have built a solid base of retention to build upon and that has led to a significant part iof their stellar population, and thus revenue, growth.

And yet, when colleges run into financial difficulty what do they cut? People. This is especially so in the areas that provide the very services that keep students enrolled in college and attract them in the first place. People in student services are often cut before say faculty, generally because the president does not have the intestinal fortitude to cut dead or dying programs and save student service programs that lead to retention and population growth.

The success of UCF shows that people are needed to  succeed in retention so the last people who should be cut are they who create population growth.

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