Student success: it means a number of different things to different people. When we talk about student success, we want to go beyond academic success–the simple ability to complete academic tasks on a regular basis–and talk about the tools and attributes that students really need in order to be successful. Student retention doesn’t just rely on students’ ability to handle the academic course load. It is also dependent on a range of other important factors. By better understanding the factors that play into student success, it’s possible to create programs that will help offer students the resources they need.
Most campuses have a wide range of resources available to their students, but that doesn’t mean that students know they’re available. And during a pandemic like we experienced in 2020 and 2021, these resources all get challenged and stretched. These resources might include:
Many campuses offer tutoring help for free for students who are enrolled in the university. 40% of high schoolers who took the ACT writing exam in 2016 lacked the writing skills they needed to pass a college-level composition course–something that is a graduation requirement in many universities. Students may not be able to bring their writing skills up on their own, but with help from the tutoring and writing center, they can learn how to accomplish these goals.
85% of college students admit to feeling stressed on a daily basis–and 70% of them haven’t even considered talking to a counselor about it. Mounting stress levels have caused serious problems for many students, including burnout, fatigue, excess weight loss, and more. By working with a qualified counselor, many students can learn how to more effectively handle high stress levels, leaving them in a better position to deal with the increased responsibility they’ll take on throughout college.
While students have adapted to remote learning, some students still need support when learning from a distance. Making support services available through web based tools, some 24/7, eases the challenges of learning in this new way.
Student success isn’t just about making it all the way to graduation. It’s also about what happens afterward–and in many colleges and universities, there are people on hand to help make graduates more successful. At career services, students will receive career advice, connect with individuals in the community who might be hiring, and improve their odds of success following graduation.
While these resources are available on campus, many aren’t publicized in a way that is accessible to all students. Not only that, many of those resources are not available during hours that are convenient for students with heavy course loads or those that are juggling jobs, including on-campus jobs, in addition to their educational responsibilities.
Dropout rates across colleges and universities are highest among students from low-income populations–those who may lack the resources necessary to purchase needed course materials, cover the cost of their tuition, and handle other financial responsibilities necessary in order to graduate. A University of Michigan study found that only 29% of students from the lowest-income families enrolled in college by the age of 19, and only 32% of those who had enrolled were able to graduate by the age of 25. 38% of students who dropped out of college cite finances as their reason for dropping out.
Students from low-income populations may find themselves struggling to meet simple expectations in the classroom. Even if they’re able to secure scholarships or Federal Aid that will cover tuition and housing, there are still other materials that they’ll need to purchase: course materials, items for projects, needed technology like computers, and more. Further, students face additional costs day-to-day, like parking, laundry, food, and other miscellaneous services. Unfortunately, there are few resources available for college students who lack vital materials that will allow them to complete their studies.
And convenience matters. As we said previously, in our post about Bursar Billing:
“According to respondents, convenience for the student to easily acquire necessary course materials was the top benefit of access, followed by the student being able to acquire books without having to wait for financial aid. Also noted was convenience for parents paying for students from out of town, as well as an increase in preparedness on the first day of class.”
Worse, dropping out may not really alleviate their long-term financial burden: more than 46% of students who dropped out are in default on their student loans. Both campuses and students must absorb the burden of bad debt left behind when a student has to drop out of school.
The image of the “starving college student” making do on noodles and toast–or worse, not being able to come up with even that–is, unfortunately, all too close to the truth for many college students. 36% of university students and 42% of community college students have, at some point during their educational career, felt food insecure. Food insecurity is more than just missing a meal; it’s not knowing where their next meal is coming from. In many cases, minority populations are more likely to experience food insecurity than others.
When students are hungry, it’s difficult for them to focus on learning. They may find it difficult to focus on even simple tasks, or they may need to go to extremes in order to acquire food. The presence of a job doesn’t necessarily mean that college students are food secure, either: with housing costs, materials costs, and gas all chipping away at their income, students with jobs may be just as food insecure as those without them.
Worse, food insecurity is increasing in many on-campus populations–particularly for nontraditional students who lack parental support to help them pay those essential bills and make it to their next paycheck. Students who are food insecure may struggle more to learn, have trouble concentrating, and find it difficult to stick with school–and dropout rates are certain to increase among populations where food insecurity is a serious, ongoing problem. Providing food to these populations is a critical part of the student success equation.
Ultimately, the measure of student success comes down to completion: that is, students’ ability to complete their degrees in a timely manner, while handling their coursework and other responsibilities to the highest level of competence. Students who drop out often do so with heavy student loan debt and a sense of failure, rather than the idea that they’re moving on to something better. Giving students the means to complete their college paths, therefore, is a critical factor in helping them achieve success.
Student success: it’s a critical concept with a number of factors that play in. Student success doesn’t just mean the ability to graduate. It means thriving throughout the journey. Many students lack the resources to meet that success on their own, but that doesn’t mean that they’re doomed to failure! Instead, with the right resources, students can succeed beyond their wildest imaginings.
Student success in college relies on a wide range of factors. Having the funds to handle their tuition and course materials is one of the first obstacles that many college students face on their journey. Food insecurity, lack of access to resources and materials, and struggling to come up with the funds for tuition can all lead to increased dropout rates. At many colleges and universities, the struggle for student retention and to keep graduation rates high isn’t just about the programs and classes offered on campus. It’s about the students themselves and the resources that they need in order to reach their overall goals. With 38% of students citing a lack of financial resources as one of the reasons they were forced to drop out before graduation, it’s more important than ever to consider how access to the right resources can significantly impact student retention and graduation rates in campuses across the country.
We at Watchman make it our mission to combat these resource deficiencies. Our customers find that our solutions are another important resource to bolster convenience for students to get much-needed materials, food, and help. We are honored to be a part of some of the most innovative campus programs to solve this ongoing challenge.