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Retention and Student Success are hot topics in higher education, but it's no longer a nice thing to do, it's a necessary task for institutions of higher education. As the student demographic continues to diversify, so does the need to employ different tactics to provide an inclusive learning experience. Students are consumers and so are their parents. They are searching for institutions that can prove that a sizable investment in college will result in a degree. Many institutions are posting retention and graduation rates on the front of their home page. Would your retention rates be an impressive marketing tool?

The concept of retaining students and more specifically underrepresented students of color, extends far beyond an institutional desire to increase retention and graduation rates. Institutionally speaking, at the core, retention is about fiscal responsibility, viability, and well-being. As an institution, the retention, persistence and completion of students, not only has a direct impact on the financial bottom line of the institution but also, the future financial wellness and employability of the student. In this relationship scenario, it goes without saying that one directly impacts the other. You increase one variable, the other will follow. The latter is also true. If you decrease one, you decrease the other. A rise in new positions like Vice President for Student Success is a notable sign that colleges and universities are responding to a competitive market.

What can you do to make a difference in diverse student retention?

Begin by looking at your DATA. The performance of your students is the best gauge of what you need to do. This data gives you a larger picture of potential issues you may have AND is a numbers-based triage mechanism. While there are similarities and trends across the nation in higher education, your institution is unique. Your culture is specific and distinct.

Next, you need to assess institutional support. It’s important to think about the political, financial, interpersonal and structural issues, as you create a proposal or plan to move the dial on the retention of underrepresented students. Again, each campus picture provides unique variables.

Diagnosing the underrepresented student is paramount. If you don't know the individual variables that impact the success of each student, you can't design appropriate intervention programs.

Once you've looked at the data, assessed institutional support, and diagnosed the underrepresented student, you'll need to frame your plan. Consider things like:

Catch Early - an intervention initiative for students that may be mismatched with an intended major, based upon ACT and previous academic performance.

Intrusive Advising - An underrepresented student needs to know that they have someone in their corner who understands the myriad of issues that they face.

Multicultural Tutoring - Diverse students are more likely to seek assistance from student tutors that look like them and have an appreciation of varied learning styles.

Supplemental Instruction - Supplemental Instruction can dramatically change the performance of at-risk students. Embedding tutors in high-fail rate and/or gateway courses provides immediate access to peer academic support.

Faculty Involvement - If you closing the opportunity gap is your goal, you need to have faculty on your team. Faculty are truly on the front lines. Each day, faculty have the opportunity to interact with students, observe their behavior, and notice if they are headed for failure.

Kinect Education Group has put together a comprehensive guide to help you build a personalized path to underrepresented success. If you're invested in the mission to ensure diverse student success, you need "R is for Retention." We are so convinced that this book will help you transform your retention efforts that we are offering it at a special introductory price. Visit our store to get your copy today!

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