President's Blog

The First Year Experience is about more than first-year student orientation

The First Year Experience is about more than first-year student orientation

In an era of rising student debt and increasing focus on outcomes in higher education, it is more important than ever that students are provided with a solid foundation upon which to launch their postsecondary education. Student success, year-to-year persistence and retention through to graduation are reliant on more than just a rudimentary orientation. Research shows that a for-credit first-year experience (FYE) offering is one of the best ways to get students off to a good start. I have three children in postsecondary education this year, so today’s blog topic is top of mind for me personally. Of my three children, only one them is at a school with a true Student Success for-credit course and is enrolled in it as a freshman. My other two children simply received rudimentary orientations in two different institutions. My exposure and experience in education has informed me as a father to be a strong proponent of mandatory for-credit first-year experience student success courses. Almost every postsecondary institution offers first-year students some form of orientation, including information on student codes of conduct and basic guidance on healthy living habits. Often these are one- to two-day events which all first-term students are required to attend. At the same time, the National Student Clearinghouse® Research CenterTM reports that overall student persistence rates from first to second year continue to hover at around 80-82%, essentially unchanged since 2009. You can download the center’s 2019 Snapshot Report here.  If the operating assumption behind the freshman orientation is to provide students with at least some of the support they will need to persist through to second year, then... read more
Helping students own their own future

Helping students own their own future

It’s common knowledge that the growth jobs of the future will require, at minimum, constant learning and skill upgrading, plus at least an associate’s degree or higher.  As a result, the push is on to increase postsecondary graduation rates. But the issue runs deeper than obtaining a postsecondary degree. In the New York Times, columnist and author Thomas Friedman describes the life challenge for today’s students as  “owning their own future”.  He notes that technology has disrupted the traditional workplace and the nature of work, such that “the notion that we can go to college for four years and then spend that knowledge over the next 30 years is over.”    So, “owning their own future” will require graduates to change the expectations they bring to the workplace.  Success in the future will be more about personal initiative than ever before, including: Taking personal responsibility for developing the skills and attitudes to support lifelong learning. Understanding how an individual’s unique blend of personality, skills, talents, preferences and knowledge can be constantly adapted to take advantage of new opportunities. Taking the initiative to update knowledge and skills through training or further education throughout life. Simply put, learning — and the self-motivation to keep learning — will be the most important life skill. It is our fundamental belief that the foundation of lifelong learning is built through giving students deep insight into their personality and an understanding of their emotional intelligence and other intelligences, along with their learning and productivity preferences. We all know that putting your innate skills and talents to work in areas where you are more comfortable and... read more
Can we afford to leave this glass half full?

Can we afford to leave this glass half full?

A lot has been written about the challenges of helping first-year, postsecondary students persist to graduation.  Low persistence rates mean fewer students graduate and enter the workforce as skilled workers. In this sense, our ability to increase persistence has a direct impact on the quality of our workforce and our ability to compete in the future global economy. We’ve written a white paper on this subject, The Need for First Year Experience Programs, that summarizes research on the effectiveness of First Year Experience programs for those institutions still on the fence about offering a robust, accredited program to all entering freshmen. In short, here’s what we learned: According to the Lumina Foundation, there will be a consistent, and widening, gap between the millions of jobs in the future requiring at least a 2-year degree, and the supply of college graduates to fill those jobs. The economic opportunity glass, if you will, will be left unfilled if we do nothing. Filling this gap will require that we prepare more high school students to be “college ready” and increase their persistence on to post secondary graduation. A review of literature on robust, first year programs designed to support students and increase their persistence suggests that these programs are effective. A non-empirical review of the programs currently available to students reveals that many institutions offer a freshman orientation course, usually taking a single day of information on healthy living habits and reviewing the institution’s student conduct code.  Other institutions offer remedial courses in math or English and consider this enough. In our opinion, neither approach is completely adequate. The first year programs that have... read more
When it comes to college…make it count

When it comes to college…make it count

With annual tuitions for two and four year public/private colleges ranging from $3,300 to $31,000 according The College Board, going to college is more than just a casual decision.   Add room and board to this number and you getting into serious money. And when you multiply the total cost of attending a 4-year institution by four years, the investment can range between $80,000 and $160,000 just for tuition. That’s if you graduate in 4 years….most people don’t according to this report by ACT, a national college readiness organization. This makes your college decision an investment decision that involves your time, and money. Given the high stakes, how can you make the most of your college education? Here are three things to consider when thinking about your college investment: How well do you know yourself, your personality, skills, interests and talents? Most college counselors know that beyond declaring a major early, understanding who you are is one of the most important factors behind a successful college career. Knowing who you are and understanding the range of opportunities before you helps you make better decisions. How well do you understand the earning potential of the major/career you are interested in? All of the time and money you’re investing in your college degree should be weighed against the financial return you can expect for this investment. This isn’t to say that money per se should drive your decisions, but that you should be aware of the implications of the decisions you make. This is especially true if you are going to be depending on student loans to finance college because you’re going... read more