Putting Stock in Students: Exploring Effective Retention Efforts on College Campuses

November 2020

College attendance rates have been on the rise since the early 2000s (National Center for Education Statistics, 2018). Retention came to the forefront of higher education shortly after the financial crisis, when students were fleeing the market in pursuit of opportunities that did not cost upwards of $100,000 (Matthews, 2009). Institutions were forced to re-strategize, so they shifted their focus from initial enrollment to retention. Since 2009, the overall retention rate has continued to rise with an increase of about 2.6 percentage points (National Student Clearinghouse Research Center, 2018). This paper examines both the statistical and practical impact each of the financial or post-admission retention designs have on students. Many of these studies examine the impact of these efforts on underserved students, and although these efforts are both vital and necessary for these students, this article focuses on the causal nature of retention efforts as a means to retain any student, rather than specific communities on campus that may particularly be susceptible to high drop-out rates.