Insights

Insights

The Forgotten Student?

April 12, 2018

The article below excerpts work originally written by Michael Horn and appears in EdSurge. The column can be found here.

Sagence Opinion Corner

Below is Sagence's take on a column in EdSurge by Michael Horn. The opinions contained within this opinion piece are those of Sagence and not the original author or publisher.

In this column Michael Horn addresses a segment of students to whom we have too long paid lip service, those who have attempted to complete college before. The author describes that while he has been writing a book about why people choose college, he has

“…listened to hundreds of students tell their story about how they made the college—or any postsecondary education—decision. Many of the students I’ve listened to were, at one time or another, college dropouts. … Over a million students drop out of college each year. Only 43 colleges out of 1,669 reviewed in a study by the Educational Policy Institute had a graduation rate of over 90 percent. By contrast, 1,132 of them had a graduation rate below 59 percent. And despite the increasing amounts of energy and money spent on trying to retain students, the “Forgotten Students” report observes that they still continue to stop out—often for very rational and responsible reasons like supporting a loved one in a time of medical emergency, or because the bills to live have just become too high to pay.”

Why do we continue to fail at this rate to serve students who have already signaled that they value what a post-secondary credential, (degree or certificate) can offer?  All of us are well aware of the repercussions that Horn summarizes.

“The impact of this on students is well documented. Students who drop out rack up crippling debt without the benefits that come from the earning premium of having a degree. There is also an impact on institutions which is less discussed. The 1,669 institutions in the Educational Policy Institute’s study “collectively lost revenue due to attrition in an amount close to $16.5 billion in a single academic year,” according to The “Forgotten Students” report.”

Horn asks the critical question

“Given all this, why aren’t institutions better supporting students who have left their campuses to help them get back on track when their circumstances have changed and they are ready?”

The answers Horn proposes are varied and include: difficult to find and recruit them back; challenge to understand why the student dropped out; and how to use that to information to insure they support that student successfully upon re-enrollment.

If we do better in understanding an individual’s circumstance, and use that knowledge to impact their performance, will that help? Of course it will.  This is the traditional role of a mentor or a coach. Our partners have taken this to heart and made it a fundamental part of their learning programs.

Can we work harder to understand an individual’s motivations and behavior? Of course we can.  We know that most of these students are motivated to make a better life by using learning to help them get better jobs and meet career aspirations. Our partners' competency based programs, workforce certificate programs, training and credentialing courses are explicitly designed to meet this need.

Will these students be at higher risk and might require more resources to succeed? Perhaps ALL students require more TARGETED resources to succeed.

Our conclusion – Create programs that are specifically designed for a returning student.  Insure that you design these programs with flexibility in time commitment to balance against job and family commitments. Ensure you meet their motivations and provide ongoing incentive. Ensure you design support systems that truly pay off. Use a technology that allows you to implement maximum flexibility while providing maximum support.  These returning students will succeed. Success breeds success, your programs will grow.

In this column Michael Horn addresses a segment of students to whom we have too long paid lip service, those who have attempted to complete college before. The author describes that while he has been writing a book about why people choose college, he has

“…listened to hundreds of students tell their story about how they made the college—or any postsecondary education—decision. Many of the students I’ve listened to were, at one time or another, college dropouts. … Over a million students drop out of college each year. Only 43 colleges out of 1,669 reviewed in a study by the Educational Policy Institute had a graduation rate of over 90 percent. By contrast, 1,132 of them had a graduation rate below 59 percent. And despite the increasing amounts of energy and money spent on trying to retain students, the “Forgotten Students” report observes that they still continue to stop out—often for very rational and responsible reasons like supporting a loved one in a time of medical emergency, or because the bills to live have just become too high to pay.”

Why do we continue to fail at this rate to serve students who have already signaled that they value what a post-secondary credential, (degree or certificate) can offer?  All of us are well aware of the repercussions that Horn summarizes.

“The impact of this on students is well documented. Students who drop out rack up crippling debt without the benefits that come from the earning premium of having a degree. There is also an impact on institutions which is less discussed. The 1,669 institutions in the Educational Policy Institute’s study “collectively lost revenue due to attrition in an amount close to $16.5 billion in a single academic year,” according to The “Forgotten Students” report.”

Horn asks the critical question

“Given all this, why aren’t institutions better supporting students who have left their campuses to help them get back on track when their circumstances have changed and they are ready?”

The answers Horn proposes are varied and include: difficult to find and recruit them back; challenge to understand why the student dropped out; and how to use that to information to insure they support that student successfully upon re-enrollment.

If we do better in understanding an individual’s circumstance, and use that knowledge to impact their performance, will that help? Of course it will.  This is the traditional role of a mentor or a coach. Our partners have taken this to heart and made it a fundamental part of their learning programs.

Can we work harder to understand an individual’s motivations and behavior? Of course we can.  We know that most of these students are motivated to make a better life by using learning to help them get better jobs and meet career aspirations. Our partners' competency based programs, workforce certificate programs, training and credentialing courses are explicitly designed to meet this need.

Will these students be at higher risk and might require more resources to succeed? Perhaps ALL students require more TARGETED resources to succeed.

Our conclusion – Create programs that are specifically designed for a returning student.  Insure that you design these programs with flexibility in time commitment to balance against job and family commitments. Ensure you meet their motivations and provide ongoing incentive. Ensure you design support systems that truly pay off. Use a technology that allows you to implement maximum flexibility while providing maximum support.  These returning students will succeed. Success breeds success, your programs will grow.

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