Amelia Herring

The Top 8 Risk Factors that Impact Student Retention

The Top 8 Risk Factors that Impact Student Retention
Amelia Herring

Are dropouts a challenge for your school?

In this blog we review the top 8 risk factors that influence student retention and offers some suggestions on how to minimize the impact they can have on your completion rate.

Today we’re going to talk about the top 8 risk factors that impact student retention in post secondary schools.

Many of today’s students have family and professional obligations that make it challenging to pursue a college degree. Did you know that 73% of U.S. students are classified as “non-traditional” by the Department of Education, meaning they carry risk factors that make it more difficult to reach graduation?

So let’s jump right in and discuss the Top 8 Risk Factors that non-traditional students may face when entering post secondary education, as outlined by the Department of Education. These are in no particular order.

The first risk factor is whether the student has dropped out of school before. Our research has shown that students who have dropped out of a previous educational program – high school or post secondary – are 41% more likely to drop out again.

A second risk factor is being a part time student. This means it takes longer to obtain a degree, and many people don’t have the persistence it takes to stay in school.

The third risk factor to think about is the age of the student. Older students bring with them a wealth of life skills and experience, but with that also come the challenges of adulthood. Adult students are usually not often under their parents’ influence, and thus must handle the burdens of school on their own.

The fourth risk factor is if the student is financially independent. These students often carry a greater financial burden than dependent students, and this may affect their ability to complete their education.

A fifth risk factor is whether the student has dependents to care for. The difficulties and expense of obtaining child care, along with the day-to-day responsibilities of family life often deter students from completing school. Single parents have it even harder!

A sixth contributing factor to dropping out is if the student has a job. Time constraints can affect critical areas like the number of classes a student may take, the choice of classes that are available, or even something like access to the library or computer lab. Also, the mental demands of a job, in addition to school, can make it challenging for a non-traditional student.

Risk factor number seven – The Department of Education has found that students attending an online school or blended classes are 8% more likely to drop out.

And the last risk factor is how well the student speaks and understands English. Non native English speakers may struggle with grasping curriculum, lessons, and individual test items, and may also have difficulties communicating with fellow students in group activities.

Many times, students will have more than one risk factor, and studies have shown that the more risk factors that are present, the more likely it is that the student will drop out.

To counteract this, schools are investing in evaluation tools that help them identify these and other risk factors that are present before enrolling students. These tools provide admissions counselors with insight into areas where a student may need support from the school. Knowing ahead of time what challenges your students face can help you improve their chances for success.

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