How Faculties That Create a Support System for Students Can Increase Retention
With many career colleges offering educational programs that seem similar, schools need to look at what they can do to attract students and stand out against competition. In order to appeal to prospective students, as well as retain current ones, career colleges need to focus their attention on offering a supportive environment that encourages students to succeed. The following are methods for building a strong support system for students during their education.
Understanding the Demographic
Before looking for ways to increase enrollment and retain students, schools must first understand the demographics of their student body. Students that attend career colleges have a different set of needs than those that attend state schools.
Data shows the career school demographic often consists of students aged 24-45 years old. They typically are those who have already been submerged into the working world and lack the education needed for advancement. According to the Tennessee Association of Independent Colleges and Schools (TAICS), 79% of students are already employed and continue working during their time as a student. The TAICS also states that 69% are first generation college students. This type of background can cause two extreme outcomes. The family is either supportive and proud to have a member attend college or they can be bitter and resentful. When a parent or spouse is not supportive of their loved one attending college they might show negative feelings toward the situation. If the institution can provide some type of daily encouragement and support, it can help combat what students face in their personal lives and give them the hope they need to finish their education.
Establishing a Relationship
After deciding on a school, the first interaction students have with the institution is with an admissions professional. Part of their job is to pre-screen applicants in order to ensure they have a realistic chance at graduation. Admissions staff will meet with students to get to know them and learn about their interests. The goal of the admissions staff is to establish a relationship and make students feel comfortable and welcome at the school. Communication between students and school staff can help create the support system students need to graduate. For example, knowing there is someone who will recognize poor attendance can motivate students. If they have someone who is watching their progress and can be excited for them when they succeed, it can boost their confidence and desire to complete the program.
Most institutions require an entrance exam for students. These exams are designed to be passable and require a minimum score for applicants to move forward with enrollment. Some schools will even offer courses for those who score lower in order to catch up before their actual course load begins. Offering these courses, usually free of charge, can be another way to gain the trust of students and show the school is there to help them. Retaining students from enrollment to graduation depends on how effective the faculty can be in providing students with support and encouragement and make them feel like they are a valued member of the student body.
Getting Students Involved and Engaged
Campus life has a strong impact on the relationship between students and the college. Building relationships with classmates outside of the classroom can create friendships, which can prove to be another form of support that can help make students feel comfortable on campus. Most schools offer a variety of ways to get involved on campus. Common areas, such as the library, are a great opportunity for students to interact with each other and go over any homework they may have. Tutoring is available at most schools as well, which can be another source of support from the faculty. Face time outside of the classroom will help professors get to know each student on a personal level and can give students someone to turn to if they are having problems with school or their personal lives.
Student organizations are another way to get students involved on campus. Clubs can be a fun way to meet people who are going through college at the same time. Students are able to relax and be more casual around other students who share similar interests. It is important to encourage students to join groups in order to surround themselves with people who are striving towards the same goals.
Campus wide events can also increase student participation. These events can bring the school together and create a way for the faculty to interact with students and learn ways they can help them meet personal goals. The more opportunities students have to see their instructors as someone who cares about them, the more likely they are to attend every class period. In cases where problems arise, professors who have stronger relationships with students are more likely to help them find solutions to their problems.
It is also important for the institution to get to know the family or friends of the student involved. When a student brings a spouse or friend on campus to see what they are learning it can build support at home. Many family members who do not support college may not know what exactly happens at school. By showing them the campus, family members can get excited about the work the student is doing, which can raise the level of support the student gets while off campus.
During class, professors should engage students. It is important to realize some students attending career colleges may have struggled in the past in traditional education systems. Classes should be designed to be hands-on and interactive in order for students to learn in a way they feel most comfortable. Class sizes should be smaller to make it easier for the professor to monitor the work of every student and be able to teach specific skills to students individually. Many professors still work in the field they are teaching, which allows them to relate real life situations to students in their class. It also allows for their curriculum to stay relevant.
Each class students are required to take at a career college is directly related to their respective field of study. Students at many institutions are also given the opportunity to listen to guest speakers from their industry, as well as take tours of potential employers to get a feel for the environment. Keeping students engaged in the industry they are studying will help with their motivation, and keeping them motivated will keep them enrolled.
Job Placement and Post Graduation
Having a strong career services department can increase the number of students who enroll and graduate. Students attend career colleges for one reason: to get a better job. Without being able to provide that, schools would have very little attraction to potential students. Schools need to show their programs are effective and they need a faculty who is going to work hard for the students and teach to their individual needs.
The main goal of a career services department is to help students find a job. Most have a variety of services they offer that can help a student find employment, such as resume and cover letter development and distribution, interview technique and preparation and job search strategies. Career coaches work with students to make sure they are prepared to present themselves in a professional manor. In some instances, the career coach or advisor will send resumes to companies where the school has established a relationship.
Allied programs can provide real working experience for students while they are still in school. Students can take part in internships, externships, clinical rotations and fieldwork practice that are usually required by companies before they hire an employee. Some companies will even hire students as full time employees after their externship and graduation. Without a career services program, it can be hard to retain students.
Some institutions have alumni services as well. Students are allowed to continue using the job search resources the school provides even after graduation. Allowing graduates to continue using services that were crucial in the beginning stages of their job hunt gives them a familiar service to use and allows the school to stay connected with graduates to monitor their progress post-graduation.
Making students feel comfortable and welcome in their environment is key to getting them to graduation. It is important for faculty to give students the support they need from the beginning and establish a relationship that can benefit students not only with enrollment, but also during the semester and after graduation. Schools that provide the greatest support to students will have the most success in retaining them through graduation and will increase enrollment in the long run.
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Hyman, Mark. “Assault on Career Colleges.” The American Spectator. N.p., 6 Oct. 2010. Web. 06 June 2012. <http://spectator.org/archives/2010/10/06/assault-on-career-colleges>.
“Tennessee Association of Independent Colleges and Schools.” Tennessee Association of Independent Colleges and Schools. N.p., n.d. Web. 06 June 2012. <http://taics.org/colleges.htm>.