Right to Know: Student Retention


Student retention is one of the main things to look at when picking a college. It lets you know the graduation success rate of that school as well as its students.

According to the National Center for Educational Statistics, the overall graduation rate is also known as “the right to know” or the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) college rate.

The IPEDS tracks the progress of students who began their college education as full-time, first-time degree- or certificate-seeking students to see if they complete their studies within 150 percent of “normal time.”

IAIA Graduation Rates

As of Nov. 1, updated student outcome data is now available on the IAIA website under Right to Know Information.

In the graph shown below of graduation rates for  full-time freshmen, transfers and all students, IAIA had a fluctuation one year in graduation rates, but the   four-year graduation rate is rising.

Below are undergraduate student retention rates for full-time freshmen and transfer students, which show fluctuations.

There are many factors as to why an IAIA student will drop out, according to Blue Tarpalachee, who is IAIA’s housing director and Achieve the Dream committee member. The two main reasons have been financial problems as well as home sickness, he said.

Brian Pivik of Peterson’s Blog, explains other reasons why students drop out of college. Those reasons include:

  • Family issue
  • Too much stress
  • Personal emergency
  • The college atmosphere not the right fit
  • Too much fun outside of class
  • Lack of advising

Retention Tracking

According to Jeminie Shell, the IAIA retention director, retention statistics do not always reflect retention of all students.

In an interview with Shell, she explained that when looking at retention data, persistence data, and completion data, only certain students are tracked.

This is because a school must follow federal guidelines when it comes to student retention.

Under those guidelines, the retention numbers are going to typically reflect “first-full time students.” This is a student who has never been to college and has no transfer credits, and is entering college as a first-time, full-time freshman.

These students will be tracked all four years of college or however long it takes them to graduate.

What about everyone else?

In the guidelines, some reasons students will not be tracked include the following:

  1. If a student stops out (leaves but then returns later),
  2. If a student drops out of college.
  3. If a student enters college as a transfer from another college.

“It is really a specific approach to the data analysis that’s driven by the federal government,” Shell said.

She also explained that IAIA has different programs available to students to help them continue and succeed:

  • Orientation of new and transfer students
  • Talking Circle
  • Learning Lab
  • Blue Corn Mondays
  • Disability Support Services
  • Student advising
  • Financial aid/ scholarship support
  • Achieving the Dream (recently added in Fall 2017)

Asked what student retention meant to her, she said, “Student retention is about supporting students’ needs.”

Achieving the Dream

Achieving the Dream is a network of colleges that have set out to improve student success, of which IAIA is now involved.

IAIA will now be making data-informed decisions instead of following retelling of statistics. The data collected will provide information on what is working for student success.

Blue Tarpalechee (Photo from the IAIA website)

Blue Tarpalachee explains how Achieving the Dream works to help student retention.

Achieving the Dream starts by asking students, staff, faculty, and alumni, what does student success mean? This answer may differ person to person.

There are two coaches, an achievement coach and a data coach. They consider who the school is and their mission. This helps design initiatives to improve student success.

“If we consider someone who attends for a very specific purpose, and they complete the program and move on and don’t achieve a bachelor’s degree, I believe we should still count that as a success,” he said.

“Achieving the Dream is all about making data-informed decisions, instead of us anecdotally deciding what needs we should be addressing,” he said. “We are looking at the data to guide us.”

(Featured Photo by Pearlyne Coriz)


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