Second Year College Persistence

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Many colleges face challenges with student persistence, retention, and completion. Thus, a relevant question is – What can colleges do to improve student outcomes? On July 26, 2023, the USDOE released the notice for FY 2023 for the Applications for New Awards for the Postsecondary Student Success Grant Program (PSSG). The purpose of the program is to improve unbiased postsecondary student outcomes such as retention, successful transfer of completed credits, and completion.

Persistence rate is measured by the percentage of students who return to college at any institution for their second year. The retention rate, however, represents the percentage of students who return to the same institution. When students persist into their second year, they are more likely to graduate and achieve their educational goals, contributing positively to their future career prospects.

Generally, supportive, and effective educational environments will yield higher retention rates. Some of these support systems include:

  • Academic support such as tutoring, counseling, and academic advising can assist students to overcome challenges and increase student self-efficacy.
  • Financial aid support and scholarships can alleviate the burden of paying for college expenses and reduce the likelihood of quitting pursuing postsecondary education.
  • Constant check-ins with first-generation college students and students from vulnerable populations can help students feel supported on campus.
  • Appropriate campus engagement provides an opportunity for social interaction to foster students’ sense of belonging in college. Building a sense of community and belonging on campus is crucial. Students who feel connected to their peers, faculty, and staff are more likely to stay engaged and persist through their college years.
  • Supportive faculty and staff who can help guide students and enhance the learning experience and motivate students to continue their education. Access to supportive college staff also helps enrich students’ college experience.
  • Providing access to resources that support the mental health and well-being of students is critical for overall college success. In addition, access to food and clothing will be very helpful for students from vulnerable populations.

It is essential for colleges and universities to continually assess and improve these factors to enhance their students’ overall experience and increase college persistence rates. Access to federal funding provides an opportunity for colleges to get funding that can be used to provide some of the above-mentioned to first-year students to help promote second-year and future years persistence in college. In addition, federal funding can be used to develop systems that can detect signs of academic distress and/or build timely inteventions for students who are at risk of not persisting in college.