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Center for the Study of College Student Retention
 

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Retention Definitions

Can a college examine college student retention prior to defining what retention is to the particular institution? There is currently one standard national retention definition that was established by the federal government and must be reported by all colleges on an annual basis. That definition is:

Program Retention: Tracks the full-time student in a degree program over time (6yrs/4yr college, 3yrs/2yr college) to determine whether the student has completed the program.

But this retention definition does not include students who start part-time then move to full-time attendance or those who are attending college part-time which in many cases is over 50% of some college populations, especially the community college and students taking distance education courses.

Are there other definitions that a college can use to help determine student success? Here are a few suggestions.

Course Retention: The number of students enrolled in each credit course after the course census date and the number of students who successfully complete the course with an A-D grade at the end of the term.

Student Retention: If a student does not enroll for two consecutive regular terms, determine whether the student has achieved his/her academic and/or personal goals.

Distance/Extended Campus Retention: A student is retained in a distributed learning course and/or program if he/she is making satisfactory progress towards a personal and/or educational objective consistent with the college's mission.

College/university definition for retention.

Can the national accreditation commissions meet and determine national definition of retention and require that all institutions report their rates nationally? The idea should not be to penalize an institution with a higher then average retention rate, rather to help the institution determine its retention rates using similar definitions so it can then strengthen the teaching/learning process.