Retention coaches

Retention frustrates me.  It seems like nothing is all that effective short of raising admission standards. The areas we can have the most impact on--educational intervention for academic problems, intrusive advising for constant contact, and so forth--are not included in the reasons often cited by students for dropping out.  They leave college for personal and financial issues unrelated to academic performance. 

Still, here's another strategy to boost retention that mighe help:

At D.C.-area community colleges, coaches help students stay on track
Jonathan Tucker sits down for an hour each week with Rick Leith, a professor at his community college, to talk about whatever is on his mind.

It doesn't sound particularly revolutionary. But leaders of Howard Community College have found that students who meet regularly with volunteer "coaches" are significantly more likely to continue their studies than classmates who do not. . . .

Howard Community College is among the Washington region's more successful two-year institutions. The school, which is in a wealthy suburban county, reports that 57 percent of students either graduate or transfer to four-year colleges within four years of enrolling.

One reason is Step UP, a program of coaching and support launched five years ago at the Columbia campus.

A committee of faculty and staff was looking to improve retention - the share of students who return from one semester or year to the next. The group interviewed students who had failed and asked what might have helped them succeed.

The response was unexpected. Students said they had let their schoolwork go because "they weren't convinced that it mattered," said Sue Frankel, an English professor who directs the coaching program.

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